I’ve been a public school teacher for nine years, which is more than long enough to become familiar with the imperfections of the system. From the focus on standardization to the prioritization of proficiency over growth, the public school system has its challenges.
The pandemic made all of these issues clear as day. With their children learning from home, parents and caregivers had the chance to see their students’ individual learning needs for themselves. They were able to see for themselves what worked for their children and what didn’t and what the adults felt comfortable with, too.
For more than a year now, after school and on the weekends, I’ve been working to fill some of these gaps. That’s because in addition to being a classroom teacher, I also run an education consultancy, FUNdamentals of Learning. During the pandemic, I received a grant from the National Parents Union and the VELA Education Fund to address some of the issues I’ve been witnessing by starting a kindergarten readiness program, Kindergarten Kounts.
I’m an elementary school teacher, and I’ve seen how instruction has changed over time and how many students’ parents and caregivers feel like they are not in position to help their children with their schoolwork. Plus, doing early childhood education at home needs to involve hands-on activities, especially during a pandemic.
That’s why Kindergarten Kounts sends kits of materials to students’ homes. Manipulatives for math, from unifex cubes, geoboards, and much, much more. Our program specifically targets mathematics instruction. To help parents and caregivers know how to get the most out of these resources, and learning in general I make videos on my YouTube channel that families can watch at their convenience.
This approach is working. Families in my program have been quoted in USA Today talking about how they feel like their children are ready for elementary school, despite the pandemic. For students who may already be behind their peers, the coaching and resources we offer have helped families ensure that the gap for their kids hasn’t widened further during the pandemic.
As the pandemic ends, I hope the window does not close on opportunities for schools to apply lessons we’ve learned during this time. Public schools don’t have all of the answers. Neither do families who value educating their children at home. Especially with the changes made possible by technologies like YouTube, I hope educators and families can work together to create more solutions that will serve our ultimate goal of supporting children with their learning.
Isis Spann is a public school educator and mother of four. She recently co-authored a book with her daughter titled “Nia’s Purpose,” to shed light on what it’s like to live with cerebral palsy as a kid in elementary school. Outside the classroom, Spann is CEO of FUNdamentals of Learning, a company focusing on narrowing equity, ...