Keep Families in Mind: An Equity-Focused approach to In-Person Learning.


There is an urgency amongst communities and schools across the nation to prioritize justice because they are essential to connecting the current realities. Making justice a project,  places intentionality on diversifying the educator workforce through CRT (Culturally Relevant Teaching), leading with empathy, and framing the working with a critical humility lens. Specific groups (African-American, Native-American, LatinX, Asian-American) amplify issues that matter and elevate their voices to speak the truth about the persistent issues (i.e., race, poverty, educational opportunities, access to technology) that are vital during the current climate. The post -pandemic Critical Pedagogy attempts to connect students, teachers, and families through collaboration and shared learning goals. At the core, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed additional light on equity, SEL (Social-Emotional Learning), and CRT, which expresses the importance of student agency and strong relations before academic rigor.

Design Thinking (DT) is an extension of the design sciences through the interpretive lens of future innovations and unlocking the cabinets of curiosity. DT has been used to engage in complex problem solving around significant issues. Challenging problems are characterized as being paralleled with complex social issues with no singular solution and require an evolutionary approach called out as a process of “resolving” issues. Design Thinking may be an appropriate way of approaching complex problems as this approach has several aspects that allow for creative thinking across schools. Personal Learning is common practice with many variations. Goals encourage empathy (as covered in Wired to Care), visualization of collected data, conducting wide-ranging ideation sessions, and building efficacy followed by a test and feedback cycle.

Expanded Parental Responsibilities

On the other hand, when differences of opinion occur, schools must clearly outline alternatives to in-person learning (i.e., virtually learning, Independent study, hybrid models). Parents are facing a disorienting dilemma on how to educate their children while keeping them safe. Some political ideologies do not help communities and schools reopen safely because they challenge science and public health guidelines by piling in modifiers that stir up uncertainties and compromise learning environments for students, along with fracturing collaborative decision making.

The communities that create safe spaces so that parents are unafraid to ask questions and engage in reopening schools, further the discussion and critical dialogue surrounding uncertainty and how schools will pivot when quarantining is recommended. Freedom and the right to use are not intended to endanger children or the educators supporting them, forcing parents to pull their children from classrooms. The modifiers and change of behavior due to the evolving pandemic, parents hesitate to ask questions, and shared spaces are compromised. The long-term effects are yet unknown. When outbreaks occur, parents will need to seek remedies and flexibilities regarding their employment and embrace their expanded responsibilities if their children are diverted to virtual learning during the school year.

The question remains, how will schools and communities address the pandemic of the virtually educated or the those who are educationally unprepared?

Dr. Jerell Hill is the Dean and Assessment Coordinator in the School of Education at Pacific Oaks College.