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Enjoying Time Together, Despite This 'Nightmare'

A third grader and his mom share how they’re finding moments of joy in the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic, in our latest 'COVID-19: Community Voices' piece.

By Jessica Fregni

April 20, 2020

Teach For America Kansas City Student Jose Manrrique and his cat Whiskers

Jose Manrrique is a third grade student at Carver Dual Language in Kansas City, Missouri. Jose lives with his mom, Marisol Escobedo, along with his aunt and his grandparents. Normally, Jose attends class with his teacher Andrew Murphy (Kansas City ‘14), but due to COVID-19, schools in the Kansas City Public School system will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. 

Now, like millions of other families across the nation, Jose and his mom are adjusting to the realities of distance learning. In the latest installment of our series “COVID-19: Community Voices,” Marisol and Jose share how life has changed for them since school closures, how they’re coping with the challenges of remote learning, and how they’re finding positivity and hope in family time during COVID-19.

Jose: “I Remember I Have to Stay Inside”

What is your day like now that you've been home from school? 

Jose: I get ready for school, I just wake up, eat breakfast, have a break, and get to school.

What does school look like now, what are your classes like?

My house. We do video chats.

What lessons do you do during video chat?

With Mr. Murphy, we do Passengers and Pilots where you need to make new words by using old words, say a word. Then we read a book, and then we're done.

What do you miss about school?

Jose: Recess. My friends. 

What do you do for fun now that you have to stay inside?

Jose: I watch a tablet because I have the playground and stuff, but then I remember I have to stay inside.

Marisol: “I Love Being Able to...Have More Family Time at Home.”

How are you coping with all of this now that school's closed and people have to stay in?

Marisol: I'm nervous for everything that is going on, and wishing for everything to end soon. We have to help Jose at home, doing the schoolwork and everything. It is a little hard but we're trying to do our best.

How has this changed your routine since the school's been closed?

Extra work. [chuckles] Even though we're staying inside at home, it's still extra work for me to be doing the work for school. I have to be able to teach Jose when he has a question. I'm trying to do my best, but it's a little bit hard. You need to be putting [Jose] into focus and since he's at home, he would like to be playing more, but he also needs to focus on schoolwork.

Jose Manrrique and his garden

What kind of schoolwork have you been doing with him?

We have been doing some packages that one of the math teachers sent, and the one that the district gave us on reading. We do Facebook Live. We also do the video calls with Mr. Murphy. 

With Facebook Live, the teachers for third grade rotate with each other. They do math, and then they do English. The teachers go over the questions with the kids. Facebook Live helps a lot because we can go back and rewatch it. Jose watches it on Facebook, off his tablet.

This is what they're doing while they're getting Google Classroom up and running, basically. This week, we start Google Classroom. It has everything with details for what [Jose] needs to be doing the whole day.

You mentioned Facebook Live, but how else have these teachers or the school been keeping in contact with you and other parents throughout this virus?

They have been using ClassTag. I believe that's the name of the app that we use with the teachers. Yes, ClassTag. Basically, we'll use the app to get in contact and we also use text messages. Then with Mr. Murphy, if I have a question, I can ask him when he's doing the video call with Jose.

You mentioned that Jose has a tablet. Do you feel like he has everything he needs for online learning? Do you feel like your internet's fast enough for all of the streaming and Facebook Live?

Yes. Especially right now, we're really lucky that we have everything that we need. I have a laptop that we haven't used in a long time. Google Classroom really didn't want to work on the tablet, so Jose does all the work with the laptop.

What is your day-to-day like? How are you balancing everything? 

I asked for a couple of days off in order for me to be able to help Jose out. My job is one of the essential jobs that they need, because I work for a bank as an assistant manager. Of course we have to stay open. I asked for a couple of days and they were able to give me as much time as I needed in order for me to help Jose to get used to the routine.

Like I said, it's just adding some extra work on top of my daily routine by helping him with homework. It's not hard, because we try to listen to each other and whenever we get a little bit frustrated, we take a little break to relax and then we go back to it.

For me, it's been easy to do it right now with my days that I have requested at work. Starting Monday, I'm going back to work, so it might be hard to put in the work after six o'clock. Maybe we’ll have to do everything from school in the afternoon.

Do you and the other parents feel like the school is helping you out enough with supporting the kids?

Yes. I think schools are doing their best job so they can help the parents. My sister goes to high school and she has everything from her teachers, as well. The teachers keep emailing my parents about if she needs extra work.

Teachers are trying to keep up with work and to check on the kids. I know that they also do video calls with the students to do the class together as well. Especially when we have questions, we can reach out to them.

Are you worried about balancing all of Jose’s schoolwork when you go back to work?

I believe that Google Classroom will be easier for me to do. The only thing that I will be asking help for is that my sister will be the one doing the video call with Jose and Mr. Murphy, since that one is in the middle of the day. But like I said, Facebook Live and Google Classroom, that'll be perfect for me right now that I'm going back to work, so I can do them at any time of the day with Jose. 

How has Jose been coping with all of this?

He really misses his friends and teachers and school. I do notice that he's trying his best and we're working together to do our best but he does miss his school. He needs the help of teachers. He's always asking when he can go back to school so that teachers can teach him. I guess they have their own way of explaining things, it's easier with them. 

He also has asked when he is going to be able to go out. The other day he said, "I want to go out,” I was like, "No, we can't." He misses going out to the restaurants, which of course we can't do that either.

How are you feeling about the coronavirus, personally?

To be honest, I'm feeling really stressed and depressed about everything that is going on. It looks like a nightmare to me. Having to go through all of this, and then there are some people who don't listen and they're still going out, that makes it worse. But I'm trying to stay as healthy as I can.

Everything is really bad, but the good thing is that I get to enjoy more time with my son, which is something that I didn't get before because of work, then getting home and getting everything ready, then sleeping--we did the same routine every day. 

Being able to stay at home helped me to work with Jose on some other things. We did a little garden, put out strawberries and watermelon, because Jose loves his watermelon. We're doing little things inside the house. That's the thing that I do love, I love being able to stay with him and have more family time at home and--

Jose [interjects]: And have more cat time!

Marisol: Yes, more time to see his little cat, he likes to play with him too.

Jose and Marisol: “His name is Whiskers” 

More cat time? What's the cat's name?

Jose: His name is Whiskers. He's still like a baby.

That's so sweet. 

Marisol: He also made a little home for Whiskers with a box that we have.

Jose: It’s a double-decker! I literally just put two holes in a box.

Marisol: He did, and Whiskers liked it. [chuckles] 

More Community Voices

“COVID-19: Community Voices” offers a glimpse of life and learning during the coronavirus school closures, in the words of students and parents in the communities we serve. Read other stories in the series:

If you'd like to tell your story or would like to suggest a story for us to cover, please email us. And find resources for educators supporting students through the coronavirus outbreak at Teach For America's educator resource hub.