Keep It On The DL Encourages Community Members to Share Tips and Resources for Distance Learning

Graphic by Sarah Sarwar // Images from Keep It On The DL

I can still hear my students telling me, “Mx. I look forward to your class every day.”

Most days, now, I am inseparable from my computer, compiling lists of free resources for my students, their parents, and fellow educators. I can’t stop wondering if my students are having trouble with the academic shift of distance learning and if their parents are struggling to help them with their work. What in the world can we do when our only connection to our classrooms is one dead battery away from being nonexistent? If there’s one thing the queer community has taught me, it’s the importance of mutual aid. Mutual aid is the sharing of supplies, equipment, personnel, and information across political boundaries.

Passing around documents on doctors to trust or organizations dedicated to our well being is what keeps many of us alive day after day. Days after the shutdown, I established the Instagram account @keepitonthedl2020, a resource hub and platform for educators, parents, and students adjusting to distance learning. Teachers from all over the world take over the account for three days at a time, discussing their experience during this pandemic and providing others with lesson plans, stories, solutions, and guidance. All people deserve the right to continue their education regardless of their ability to sit in a physical classroom. Accessibility should never determine a child’s ability to learn.

Working in underserved communities and coming from one myself, I am no stranger to the stark challenges of seeking an education. Though they cared very much about my education, my immigrant parents became unable to help me with my homework before I even reached high school. Tears fill up my eyes remembering the relief and heartbreak of all schools in New York officially closing. I have a compromised immune system and am very used to being isolated to protect myself, so the idea of a lockdown didn’t feel too unfamiliar. Being around so many young children had me dealing with a cold at least once a month, but it was worth it. I passed up on many fun nights out because if I was going to spend four days a week doing anything it was teaching my students how valuable they are. I spent nearly all of the time my body could handle being outside working in my classroom and it was beyond worth it. Seeing the students self esteem, sense of community, and empathy grow is the greatest privilege I have ever had. One day, after sharing journal entries, we were all huddled together crying tears of gratitude in a group circle. My girls told me that our class gave them the chance to speak on and manage pain that they held in their whole lives. Equipping them with all the tools they would need, felt like something I could only do in person, tangled up in hopeful arms.

Like every other educator moving from room to Zoom, I had to think fast. Our students need us now more than ever – how can we help if we can’t show up? How do we connect in a world that is at our fingertips but is prioritizing distance? We are able to come together in a way that has never happened on our planet before. Not to sound like a gay superhero (am I, though?) but when we join forces we are truly unstoppable, and it’s high time that we use the internet for good and not evil. Our program offers an open, free, and growing resource list for the community. All community members are welcomed to add PDFs to free articles, lesson plans, health & wellness hotlines, etc.

“Communities and Educators are so thankful for this kind of page. Thank you for doing the work and creating this.” – L. Cancel, Hudson County, NJ

On the Instagram account you will find extra resources listed in the story highlights as well as the archived takeovers of past educators, parents, and teachers. For three consecutive days, participants are able to share how distance learning has affected them and impart knowledge on how they’re getting through this challenge. This page is for everyone who wants to learn (and unlearn) and share their wisdom. In the past our takeovers have featured a music therapy expert with activities for children, an artist sharing self care practices, and a literacy focused teacher with a passion for helping parents and children making progress together. The variation within the takeovers is what makes them so unique and engaging; we all have something to offer to our communities and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to share that. It’s such a privilege to be able to connect virtually and I am endlessly inspired by our capacity to share and work together to build a better future. We strongly encourage anybody who would like to help to reach out to us, even if they don’t know how their skill set matches with our needs. There is a place for everyone within this project and a resource for everyone within our resource guide.

My hope is that this Instagram account and guide can continue to build a bridge between the triad of folx in need of a helping hand and a community to call their own. KIOTDL is a space where we can embrace all of our identities and utilize mutual aid to navigate the ever changing set of rules of the world around us. This project is committed to being a radically inclusive, accessible, and community lead platform for those participating in social solidarity and affected by this global crisis.

You don’t need to leave your home to reach your destination.

Interested participants and folx in need of distance learning/education related resources can email myself at sophialafi8[at]  gmail [dot] com

COMMUNITY CHECK is a series about mutual aid and taking care of each other in the time of coronavirus.

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After studying Theatre, Non Profit Administration, Music, and Gender Studies at Rutgers University/NJIT, Lafi moved to New York to pursue a career rooted in social justice and wrapped up in art. As the oldest sibling of several very loved brothers and sisters, inside them grew an inevitable interest in the art of teaching. Passing down knowledge is an invaluable gift that allows us all to grow. With internships at the Newark LGBTQ Center, LIPS performing arts gallery, and Asian American Film Lab, they grew passionate about non profit organizations. Seeing action-based structure inspired Lafi to do more work to understand every role needed for an effective program. From sound design to event planning, they dove deep into expanding their mediums. For Lafi, growing up in a mixed race household, living with a disability, and identifying as Nonbinary they are able to serve many different kinds of people – both those who relate and those who don’t. Lafi has committed their work to uplifting and capturing the voices, stories, and images of those who are often underrepresented. They're currently leading a platform called keepitonthedl2020 that connects students, educators, and parents to accessible resources and working for The Other Side NYC. When they’re not teaching and organizing, they are writing, cooking, designing, or playing with their cat.

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  1. You are definitely a gay superhero. Thank you for doing this, and for telling us about it!

  2. I love this. Thank you for the hard work you are doing for not just your students, but the educational community! You *are* a super hero! Followed the account and I’m going to send it to my fellow teacher friends.

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