During this past month of adjustment, we have all had to create new routines, schedules, and even workplaces. This is most apparent with a certain subset of our community — our public school students and their families.
Parents are navigating working in this new environment while also acting as classroom teacher or content expert while students are trying their best to carry on as normal. From pre-K all the way to high school seniors, students and their families have answered the call and have done it as positively as possible.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize our seniors and their families. In the Wilmington community, several families of high school seniors have taken it upon themselves to recognize their students whether it be on their front porch or through the front page of their Facebook newsfeed.
Wilmington High School has taken it an amazing step forward by forwarding the positive words of the parents and recognizing these amazing students on their Facebook as well. This kind of positive reinforcement in our community is exactly what our students need while their lives are being disrupted as never before.
I get the wonderful opportunity to work with several seniors at WHS and I have to say that I have a mixed bag of feelings about this abrupt end to our in-person time together.
Part of the catharsis of a busy school year is getting to close out the year with these seniors. We get to celebrate their accomplishments, the barriers they have overcome, and the excitement the future holds for them. We also get the chance to help finalize their post-high school plans and get them set to be a productive member of society.
These seniors are missing their chance to revel in their long-awaited achievement. I ask all community members to do and remember this in the days and weeks ahead; reach out to the students you know and love.
Let them know that you are proud of their hard work during this time. Extend to them some grace while they navigate these unfamiliar waters.
Celebrate their accomplishments (while practicing social distancing) and let them know that their efforts are not in vain.
Remember to do the same for the families who are supporting these students; they might also miss out on some of these “last chances” and will need our encouragement.
As a teacher, I am proud of my students and their families as they have answered the call in a situation we had not imagined.
Thank you for your dedication to education, to your community and, most important, to your students.
Casting your vote, and voice
It goes without saying that, over the last month, COVID-19 has completely changed that way we look at almost every aspect of our lives.
One obstacle that was as jarring as it was sudden was the extension of Ohio’s primary vote and the order to close polling locations and instead moving to all absentee ballots.
Being a social studies teacher, I absolutely love going to my polling place and taking a physical role in our government operations. I’m normally only at my polling place for five or 10 minutes, but it always makes me feel like I have done my part.
When the order came to close polling places and just vote by mail, I was more than disappointed. I believe it’s important to have visible displays of our republic in action and this was a blow to public perception.
As I have talked to various peers, colleagues, and neighbors, I have come up with a small list of benefits and dangers of voting by mail. Obviously, the primary benefit of vote by mail is that this current crisis will not be spread by us casting our ballots. We may also be able to cut down on confusion at our polling place, long lines to wait, and the difficulty of either going before work or staying out late to vote. All of these are benefits to voting by mail.
Others have pointed out other concerns about what dangers lurk behind the veneer of safety of vote by mail. There are claims that there could be increased rates of voter fraud, “stuffing” the ballot box (to steal an antiquated phrase), and the ability for people who are not legally able to vote to cast a ballot.
When considering the high drama of the 2016 election and the subsequent interference from foreign actors, these could all become more validated concerns as time progresses. There is one thing to remember during this time, and how and when we cast our votes — we still need to participate in our elections.
Voting through a national emergency has become intimidating, cumbersome, and left us doubting the validity of our primary elections. Regardless of our doubts, we must still participate through the casting of ballots.
We need to make sure that we are making our voices heard in our local and national elections. We can write letters or send emails, but voting is the one concrete thing that politicians and officials cannot ignore. Those we elect must be acting on the wishes of the people, not on a self-created mandate that they think they have.
So do these simple things, fellow citizens; request your absentee ballot, cast your vote, and continue to participate in your government. Our future in this country depends on these votes now.
Especially in a time of crisis and uncertainty, your voice is important now more than ever.
Dillon Oney is a social studies teacher at Wilmington High School.