LA history teacher aims to help students emotionally process their COVID experiences

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After more than a year guiding students on Zoom school, teachers are now responsible for enforcing mask rules, keeping kids socially distanced, and making up for lost learning. 

David Rodriguez teaches ethnic studies and U.S. history at Bravo Medical Magnet High School between Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights. He’s nervous to be back, but prefers it over looking at a bunch of black boxes on a screen for another semester.

“It scares me, the situation that we're in,” he says. “But I tell the students: As long as we follow our path, do what we need to do, wear the masks, social distance, wash your hands, we should be okay.”

Rodriguez and his colleagues must be vaccinated by October 15, according to the LAUSD mandate. He plans to encourage his students to get vaccinated as well, but he’s not going to push the issue.

“I tell them about my experiences. I had one family member pass away this weekend in Mexico due to COVID, and I have other people that have been severely affected by it,” he says. “So I'll plead to my students by using that. But I'm not gonna say, ‘You need to do it’ or attack a student that decides not to do it.”

In addition to keeping students safe and making up for missed time, Rodriguez plans to focus on mental health.

“This year in particular is going to be a lot more about social-emotional stuff,” he says. “Tomorrow, one of the things I'm going to do is have what I call ‘Community Circle.’ I'm gonna have students sit around and talk about the experience they've had with COVID. How they feel about coming to school, how they feel about where we're at right now, just allow those emotions to come out and give students opportunities and space to be able to deal and process what's going on.”