We are so proud of our students, families, and teachers, who have worked together throughout this unpredictable time to make virtual learning better every day. Student attendance is strong, discourse in class is improving, and kids are taking advantage of our virtual clubs, academic centers, and emotional supports. This brings us joy.
In order to continue improving virtual learning at Freire, the entire Freire Schools community has committed to a new expectation in our classrooms: 100% of cameras will be on and student faces visible in every class, every day.
Going forward, the entire Freire Family is universally focused on Cameras On because it helps us ensure equity, provide deeper learning, and connect with kids on a human level.
Our students have been conditioned, generationally, to believe that they should be invisible, make themselves small – that they do not matter. This horrible way of thinking comes from a legacy of over 400 years of racism in America.
Today, we ask you to join with us to interrupt this thinking and say to our students: Yes, you do matter!
Why Cameras On Matters
At the end of December 2020, only 36% of students had their camera on during classes, and only 10% of students were actually visible in their Zoom camera frame. This is like teaching an in-person class of 25 kids, and 22 students have their heads on their desks all class long! That would never be acceptable in our buildings, and it cannot be the norm during virtual learning.
One of the most powerful acts against racism is education, which is why we are committed to providing our students a rigorous learning experience each and every day. That rigor cannot be achieved if we cannot engage face-to-face with our kids. And we cannot truly engage with our kids until we can see them – literally and figuratively.
Educator Doug Lemov writes, “Seeing students’ faces builds emotional connection, fosters classroom community, and can help us see how our students are really doing, both academically and personally, throughout a lesson.” We couldn’t agree more.
A Fresh Start in 2021
While we have always encouraged students to use their cameras, Cameras On and Faces Visible is our new norm in 2021 for all synchronous learning. Teachers will communicate this expectation to our kids every day, and we hope you will also stress its importance to your child. Our staff are also prepared to communicate with students and families when cameras are off and will work with you to remove any barriers to Cameras On.
Our Parents Are Our Partners
We need your help. We know that we are most successful when our families join us as partners in education. To make the success of Cameras On possible, we ask you to please:
- Talk With Your Kids – Please explain our Cameras On, Faces Visible initiative to your kids and its importance in ensuring equity, quality learning, and authentic connections. Connecting with peers and caring adults can be a powerful way to combat the feelings of isolation this pandemic can cause. Please also work with your child to reestablish these connections by joining clubs, talking with teachers after class, and taking advantage of the supports available at Freire.
- Communicate Needs – Listen to your child’s concerns and reach out if you think your child will need support or supplies in transitioning to Cameras On. The Freire Schools team is ready to address any concerns you may have and has ordered backdrops for families who want to ensure their privacy, hot spots to improve WiFi strength, and other supplies to ease the transition.
- Help Establish Routines – Just as kids woke up, got ready, and traveled to school before COVID-19, kids still benefit from having a morning routine that prepares them to learn virtually and to have their cameras on every day. Please help them get into this practice.
- Check In with Your Child Daily – Please take time to remind your student every day that going to school means turning on their Zoom camera and being visible on the screen. We urge you to keep an open dialogue with them and regularly ask how Cameras On is going.
Our Kids Matter
We are committed to Cameras On because our students matter. Their faces, their names, their beings matter. Together, we will never again allow our kids to make themselves unseen. We’re beginning 2021 with a renewed commitment to making our kids seen, valued, and heard.
Cameras On is equitable. Cameras On is essential. Cameras On is an important first step in empowering our kids to build a better future. Thank you for your partnership and please remember that we are ready to hear and address your concerns as we make this important transition together.