April 21, 2020

Covid Conversations: Brenda Marrero

Brenda Marrero is an educator at Madison Park Technical and Vocational High School in Boston Public Schools. Recently she sat down with E4E-Boston Outreach Director David Martinez to discuss her experience as a remote educator, and how this crisis is causing a unique impact on vocational students.

A transcript of the conversation’s highlights can be found below:

David Martinez: Can you walk us through a typical day for you as a distance educator? What does your classroom look like right now?

Brenda Marrero: My classroom now is really multiple screens. I have students reaching out to me from their phones, tablets, and the BPS-supplied Chromebooks. But as the Chromebooks were being distributed during all the confusion and the start of the quarantine, many of the students were not able to get a Chromebook because our population, 70% of them, are bussed in and there was no feasibility to come back and pick up the laptop. So, it’s students trying to log in however they can.

DM: How are your students doing emotionally?

BM: It’s very difficult for them. We have kids who will not have the rite of passage of graduation, won’t get to see who has academic distinctions and that feeling of accomplishments. So, right now, it is a big, big loss for our students to not have these experiences and makes it very real.

DM: What impact is this having academically?

BM: As our vocational students are graduating and entering the workforce, it is in a world where many people are out of work. Our students are at a loss, competing with people who have lost their jobs, employers are going to immediately reach out to these people and overlook our kids who come from a vocational school and who already have a license or a certificate to work in these industries. Even teaching vocational skills remotely is very different. Education really was delivered by the walls of the classroom, being in school. 

DM: What do decision-makers need to do to ensure that when students return to school learning loss is recovered?

BM: We need to keep up every student having a Chromebook. The reality is, the Chromebooks were there before for day to day education but not a part of their life after school. Then when COVID came, now a lot of students wouldn’t have technology at all in the home, they rely on technology in our building. Now as we go back we need to realize that we have to incorporate every child having a Chromebook in our school. We need to get much more personal with our students and have these laptops and pipe our whole school into it. This Chromebook allows them to speak and have a voice outside of school.

DM: What is one source of joy or hope you’ve experienced recently?

BM: We’re all in this together, and what I’ve seen is we’ve always had issues with race and gender but COVID has made us work with equity. It has really brought out that people need to be treated like citizens and given everything that they need. This is a disease that has no color, and the things that caused walls and barriers before so that people couldn’t work together before are diminished. And so far my greatest joy is that I have not yet lost a student from COVID, that’s my daily prayer every day.

I also thank you so much because what I love about E4E is that if I’m teaching with the students I can advocate for them, but you guys are the winds beneath our wings because you elevate our needs. Being a teacher is beyond just what happens during school hours and what I like is that you bring our voices to the forefront. And especially by people that look like us, people from the community! That is what’s amazing to me.