Pandemic sparks equity conversations

A WEAC Blog by Jesse Martinez
La Crosse Seventh Grade Teacher and
WEAC Minority Guarantee Representative

When I began this blog and podcast on equity in education I never thought we would have ended up where we are right now, a couple weeks into a school shutdown. Honestly, I don’t think there’s been a better time to talk about equity. 

I am incredibly proud to be part of a community that does what’s best for our students: My teaching team, my school, my district, my profession and my union. This community continues to fight for our students during a time of uncertainty. From providing meals for students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to food to sending videos and organizing teacher parades, we make our students feel loved. It’s what we do as educators. It’s what we do as humans.

Still, there is a certain anxiety that pulls at us as educators, questions circulating through our minds. Here are some of the questions I’ve been thinking about, and I invite you to find me on Facebook to weigh in with yours.

What is my union doing to help me?

WEAC has partnered with the state on major education decisions and has all that information on the COVID-19 Resource Page, from instructional hours waivers to making sure teachers have a say in how Educator Effectiveness will be handled. At the local and region levels, unions are working with district administrations to ensure we are informed and protected. If you are not yet a union member, our advocacy for students and educators around this crisis is another reason why joining is so vital. Our members lift each other up, fight side by side and continue to advance solutions on behalf of students and educators – even in the face of school closures. 

Are my students able to access my content while we aren’t at school? 

This entire experience brings a conversation about equity to the forefront. We may have an idea of which students have access to WiFi and which don’t, but we don’t know for sure. If I’ve learned one thing through this entire experience so far, it’s this – WiFi is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Since we cannot guarantee all of our students have steady access to the internet, we cannot, in good conscience, give them grades based on their performance on the activities we provide them. 

Are we providing rigorous content for our students? 

Our students have taken on many new roles since leaving our classrooms including caregiving, cooking, tutoring siblings and more. With new expectations, we should first be concerned with supporting their well-being. We should, first and foremost, reach out and connect with our students as human beingsbefore attempting to teach them online. We are essentially starting from square one with them and we need to rebuild our relationships with them and our expectations. 

Am I doing enough?

The answer to this one is simple. Yes. If you are reaching out to students, making connections with families and allowing yourself grace through this learning process, you are doing enough. So, take a breath, talk with colleagues and know you are a GREAT teacher. We are going to get through this. 

Have grace with one another and stay positive. It’s easy to get bogged down in anxiety and uncertainty during this wild ride, but we are all here for each other. We all want to do what’s best for our students, and we are going to work together to make that happen. 

Stay well my friends.

Jesse Martinez

Jesse Martinez, an educational justice advocate, is a seventh grade science, social studies and Spanish Immersion teacher in the School District of La Crosse and serves as the Minority Guarantee Representative on the WEAC Board of Directors. He writes to bring forward information WEAC members of color and open the lines of communication about issues facing minority communities in the field of public education. He welcomes your perspectives and feedback to share with the entire WEAC Board of Directors. Send him an email.

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