Witnessing the Ukrainian invasion brings feelings of sadness and helplessness. Children have no hope of school, running from danger after losing their homes. We’re reminded of how lucky Americans are to have freedom, not to be facing a war here, and that democratic public schools are open to all children.
It shocks the world to see the bombings, including Ukrainian schools. The trauma of these events on children seems unthinkable. Ukrainians have lost 38 children so far. There have been many injuries.
When we watch Ukrainian children sleeping on bricks in bomb shelters like subways and basements, we see our children and yearn for the safety of all children.
Remember, too, that more than 450 million children worldwide are living in a conflict zone, according to November 2021’s Save Our Children report. It’s hard to imagine a world with so much turmoil.
Watching what’s happening in Ukraine should drive us to work more together to create safe and caring democratic school environments for America’s students. We must make those schools welcoming to all because this is a free country.
While we worry about learning loss due to the pandemic, some Ukrainian children have faced repeated school disruption and have lost quality schooling for years, living with danger.
Eastern Ukraine has seen fighting since 2014, and many schools had to close. Parents have had to struggle for quality and safe schooling. Students have had to rely on piecemeal online instruction.
A 2016 Human Rights Watch report describes the plight of Ukrainian children caught in the fighting and having their schools close.
Parents and teachers worked closely together at that time to get schools to reopen safely, but cold weather and damaged unheated schools made it difficult.
Here’s a school bus waiting for students in 2018, in front of the Popasna municipal school in the province of Luhansk, Ukraine. The new school year had recently started.
From Save the Children Ukraine, here’s the Safe Schools Declaration created at that time.
Despite the pandemic, and problems facing public education in this country, Americans haven’t had to worry about any war on their soil. The closest to this is school gun violence, which should be within our reach to fix. The insurrection gave us alarming pause.
But dealing with the pandemic and social change should bring Americans together, not tear us apart.
Parents and citizens meet at school board meetings to address the needs of students. They have a voice. Those voices have been loud but still spoken freely.
However, concerns arise when the government bans books, restricts speech, and creates draconian laws like the Don’t Say Gay bill in Florida, telling teachers what they can teach.
How can we work as a nation to address current divisive school issues in a kinder, more thoughtful way without hurting students?
Consider how society is changing and how this affects children. Here are suggestions on how to strengthen our public schools:
- Be proud of neighborhood schools and reach out to them.
- Shore up school art programs and help display student artwork in the community.
- Help schools share the vibrant cultures of children attending that school.
- Respect the differences children bring to the classroom.
- Be open to change and try to understand opposing viewpoints.
- Be receptive to the findings of professional research by and about teachers, counselors, and school nurses.
- Attend a school play, or music events put on by the students.
- Are there after-school activities you can support or help out with?
- Cheer for the local school sports teams.
- Volunteer to help a child who struggles to read for several hours each week.
- Recognize the importance of the teacher/parent/student connection.
- If concerned about what the teacher is teaching, talk with that teacher.
- Ask teachers what they need?
- Get involved in the PTA.
- Might there be something you can donate to the school?
- Perhaps you work in a job that children might be interested in hearing about on career day.
- Get involved to help, not hurt.
For our part, we can step up our investment in public schools for all children and provide what aid we can to the Ukrainians for the world to see.
Reflect on our free democratic public school system and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy. Hold Ukrainian children in our hearts and pray for the war and all world conflict to end.
Lonnie Rowell says
What troubles me is that your suggestions for things people can do ignores the importance of supporting practitioner research by teachers, counselors, nurses and all educators. i support your suggestions, but it is sad to see you, Diane Ravitch and other critically important education bloggers take practitioner knowledge for granted. We may presently lack effective strategies for mobilizing educator knowledge in relation to policy-making, but that does not mean we sh0uld ignore the importance of developing such strategies and sharing the recognition of the importance of the knowledge teachers develop through their practices. Here is what our group is doing to counter the current knowledge monopoly held by all the ‘big’ experts – https://www.socialpublishersfoundation.org/knowledge_base/in-the-zone-emotion-regulation-in-the-classroom/.
Nancy Bailey says
As a retired practitioner (teacher) who values practitioner research (I have a Ph.D. in education), I’m not sure what you mean.
My blog has repeatedly supported the professionals you mention. I’m also always on the lookout for good research supporting public schools.
Furthermore, for the record, while self-regulation in children is essential, I’m worried about its current overemphasis in the research. I think it’s about making children sit still in front of computers.
Thank you for your comment.
Lonnie Rowell says
Thanks for your reply. I know you are very supportive of practitioners, and I greatly respect that. My point is simply that perhaps your list of suggestions for how to strengthen public schools could include support for teacher-research. Also, for the record, from my perspective (and like you I have been an education researcher), what is most important about the article I shared is that the research was conducted by a practitioner based on the issues and dynamics in her school. That is more important than whether I personally support this particular practice. Actually, I tend to share your concerns about ‘regulation’ of behavior. Best wishes.
Nancy Bailey says
Sure. I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for explaining. Sometimes it takes me a while.
Roy Turrentine says
I can hardly wait until someone starts a study to see if there is any learning loss in Ukraine.
Nancy Bailey says
Yes, sadly. Wait for it. We’re all thinking it, thanks for saying it, Roy.