I. What was observed during the experience?
I work at an online (virtual) public school. Every year we have what we call “Fun Day” or “Field Day” for most schools. We held this event, all students invited, at a local park in my hometown. I got to volunteer to help with it. We were there for about 7 hours. (Our team worked at the information table.) It happened to rain hard that day without stopping, so we had to move everything into the park’s gym, so it was pretty crowded! We had people from all parts of our state there: rich people, poor people, white, black, Asian, etc. Being on an online school, sometimes you feel like you are alone and there is hardly any interaction, but in watching these children, you would never know. They played with each other; they talked, and hung out in “their” groups. Oh, the cliques! You would not think that would be so in a virtual school, but it was.
There were a few groups of outsiders that came with their family and kind of stuck with them or stuck with the friends they had made online. I noticed a few poor families, but to be honest, they seemed to have the most fun. We had an issue with the face painting station. There were so many children that wanted their face painted. There was this girl that never got a number to get her face painted. (We had to do that because there were so many kids!) Her mom cussed out one of the ladies that was helping with the table because her daughter “traveled all the way from Charleston to get her face painted.”
I thought, wow, public schools are bad in teaching kids certain things, but it could be even worse teaching kids at home when parents act like that. What kind of things are these parents teaching? It’s almost like sports when parents get so worked up over a game. It was just a face painting. Sometimes life is not fair. Other than that issue, many of the children were really glad to see each other and also meet the teachers. Many of them only see them via a “Skype”-like program called Live Lesson and only have contact with them through the phone and webmail. Some were very shy in meeting their teachers and some were really excited.
II. How did the experience affect you?
This was my first “big” experience at that school because this is a new job for me. The whole experience is new for me. I have never worked at a school and definitely did not even know there were online “public” schools. It’s hard to get to know the children and the parents especially as an administrator. I felt more like an outsider than the kids and the teachers did, I’m sure. This experience affected me in the way that our youth needs us so very badly right now. Our economy is horrible, our government is corrupt, and some of the parents that I observed are not any better. I know that I wasn’t in a private Christian school environment, but I remember when I was in public school and morals were getting worse and there were issues with the kids and their families. It is so much worse than it ever was then.
It broke my heart to see some of those kids hurting. One family in particular was brought to my attention. A man I had seen at a few other events, who has at least six kids, (we’ve counted and can’t figure out exactly how many he has) is at every event supporting his kids and always by himself. Later on I had found out that his wife had passed away and now he has all of the responsibility on him. This wasn’t a divorced man, but someone with a huge loss. His children seem so happy though and he is literally at every event with them! III. What are the needs of the population that you interacted with for this assignment? There are so many needs when you are dealing with a school full of different people with different backgrounds.
There are some that need discipline—this includes parents—and all who need love. I overheard a child and teacher discussing tutoring. I am thankful that Liberty University offers tutoring, whereas our school is new and doesn’t have those options yet. Most public schools have guidance counselors, not only to help with placement, but for moral support, guidance, and advice. I remember going to my guidance counselors just to talk sometimes.
We don’t have this ability yet at the school. I think that the kids and parents need more activities and field trips to help with interaction with other kids and the teachers. We have field trips and “learning experiences,” but there are not enough and not enough volunteers to help with them. Our state just approved a law to let public charter schools (virtual/online) get into public schools for extra-curricular activities, like band, chorus, basketball, football, tennis, soccer, volleyball, etc. I think that is a step in the right direction in aiding with interaction issues.
IV. How can you help make a difference with this group?
This question is somewhat hard to answer because I am an administrator and only typically deal with truancy issues (I’m the “bad” guy!), but to be honest, I could volunteer for some of the field trips and learning experiences. I know that would help because usually the issue is there are not enough volunteers for those events. I also thought of starting some groups, much like regular public schools have. Of course, that would be asking for more volunteers! It may take off because groups like that are fun. I was thinking about heading up two particular groups in which I would have experience, but ideas of course are welcome! I would love to do a Photography club or a Bible club. I believe that it would help the kids get to interact more with each other by bringing them together with a common interest.
I should make myself more available to these types of things as I am really kind of shy compared to our teachers. I also believe that this would help teacher/parent—teacher/teacher relations as well. Children need interaction with other people and it helps their social skills. That is one thing that is lacking when you are homeschooled period. It is the job of the school, in my case, an online public school, to provide as many opportunities as possible to keep the kids busy and to make sure we edify, instruct, educate, accept, and train them well because they are our future and the most important part of our society, so we better do it well and do it right.