NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to Fairrah Newsome Jackson, an Atlanta mom juggling her job with school for one of her daughters, for our series examining how COVID-19 is changing education.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
One family – two parents with two full-time jobs, two daughters, 3 and 7 years old, and a dog. Daily life for Fairrah Jackson in Atlanta is a logistical challenge right now. She’s next up in our Learning Curve series. We’ve heard from a single mother in North Carolina, a teacher in California and now a mom who has resources and family help and still feels overwhelmed with virtual learning. Fairrah’s husband travels a lot for work, even during the pandemic. She’s in marketing and often on the phone all day.
FAIRRAH JACKSON: I mostly work in our home office, basically an L-shaped, built-in desk situation. So our oldest – when we realized that she wouldn’t be going back to school in person, you know, we converted, like, a little space in her room. So she has, like, a new desk and all of her supplies. And then our 3-year-old goes to day care.
MARTIN: Despite the planning and setup the day school actually started, things got real.
JACKSON: So day one, we get up early. We take our, you know, first day of school pictures. We’re very excited, and they’re using Zoom and then Google Classroom. So that day, the first day of school, Zoom’s having a global outage. Half of the students could log on, and the other half couldn’t. It was absolutely crazy. So I was on the phone with her teachers. I was texting them. I was emailing the vice principal and the principal, trying to figure out what we were supposed to do. And, I mean, my husband and I were both, literally, for four hours, I felt like, that day, trying to get her logged on and stay on. It was a lot just trying to figure out where to go and what the schedule was. And, you know, we were prepared. We had everything printed and all of our passwords and codes, and we still had trouble.
MARTIN: So there’s a lot of technology she has access to to try to make this easier, right? Can you tell me what she’s got?
JACKSON: So she still had her school iPad, so we did all the preparation over that weekend of, like, restarting and figuring out passwords and all that. She has her own personal iPad Pro because what we found in the spring was, sometimes, the school iPad wouldn’t work and wouldn’t log on to everything that was required for classwork or homework. And then on top of that, she has an Apple computer desktop. So between having all of those devices and both parents in the room for four hours, it’s still – that first day was a nightmare. But as time has gone on, it’s been – it’s gotten a little bit easier.
MARTIN: So you feel, at this point – now that you’re three weeks in, do you feel like you’ve got a rhythm to this? I mean, how – you sound OK. Are you OK?
JACKSON: Well, (laughter) it’s a lot. So I mean, I couldn’t – like, my husband and I, I feel like every night – usually around midnight, we are strategizing for the next day because while I work from home, there’s still things that I need to do during the day. So typically, what happens is, like, this morning, my husband was the one that got up early and got the girls dressed. While he was doing that, I was downstairs making breakfast. And then normally, I have to log in to my older daughter’s Zoom meeting. I try to do 20 minutes before the start of school because, sometimes, her school iPad can take that long to, like, connect…
MARTIN: To load?
JACKSON: …To Zoom. Oh, yeah. And so then once she’s good, then my husband is then – like, this morning, dropped off our little one at day care. Then it’s my turn then to get dressed. And then my mom is retired, so she helps us. So between my mom and I, we have to figure out who’s walking our dog. And then usually, I have meetings from 9 to 5 or whatever. We just do the best we can. And the only way we can do it is every day, we have to figure out the schedule and every week and…
MARTIN: That is a lot. And you guys are set up for success. Of all the different parenting situations, I mean, you guys have two incomes. You’ve got outside help from family. And it’s still insanely stressful.
JACKSON: Even with that. So exactly. And I feel very fortunate of our situation, but you’re right. I don’t know how – it’s a lot to ask. I mean, I do feel extremely fortunate that we’re able to, you know, keep our girls safe in the best way that we can but also, hopefully, give her the education that she needs.
MARTIN: Fairrah and her family are Black. Statistically speaking, they are more likely to get COVID than people who are white. For Fairrah, that knowledge and the fact that her job and her income help protect her from that risk is heavy.
JACKSON: I do think that that weighs on us. I think, unfortunately, that that group has had a higher proportion of the risk factors like obesity or diabetes. I don’t fall into those categories, so I feel, like, a little bit more removed from it because I don’t feel like I’m in a risk category only because I’m Black. I also feel that my job doesn’t put me at risk. When I look at other people that have more, like, a white-collar type of job, their risk, I feel like, is similar to my risk.
MARTIN: So are you preparing for the whole academic year to be virtual?
MARTIN: How do – what’s your – what’s – what are you psychologically preparing for over the next year?
JACKSON: So I haven’t seen any fundamental changes in how people at least feel like we’re taking it seriously. I don’t – I mean, when I walk around, people are out and about as if COVID is over. So that doesn’t give me a lot of hope that our community is doing enough. I mean, my daughter, even this morning, mentioned, I can’t wait until I get to go back to school. I mean, I would love for that to happen, but I don’t feel hopeful that it’s going to happen.
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MARTIN: That’s Fairrah Jackson in Atlanta, Ga. You can hear more from our series Learning Curve Sunday on Weekend Edition.
(SOUNDBITE OF DORENA’S “MY CHILDHOOD FRIEND”)
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