Why FLVS is Important for Kids

Why FLVS is Important for Kids

When people ask me what I do and I tell them I’m a teacher, they almost always ask, “Where?” When I reply Florida Virtual School, I am often met with a confused expression. Then the questions start. Where is it located? How do the students take their courses? How often do you see them? What kinds of courses are offered? Why would kids want to take their courses on a computer anyway?  Of course I try to answer all of these questions in the best way I can, but I never know if I get across to people how important online schooling can be for students. Maybe I didn’t even fully realize it myself until today.

In my almost nine years of teaching at FLVS, I have worked with thousands of students. I could write pages and pages about the different students I have worked with that have benefitted from our school. I have had a student with a brain tumor who was determined to finish the course, no matter how long it took her and no matter how ill she was. Completing her grade was one of the best moments of my career. I taught another student who had only two fingers but would painstakingly type out some of the best American History essays I have ever read. I have had many autistic children who have flourished, children with social anxiety issues, sick children, children taking care of ill parents/grandparents/siblings, pregnant students, teenage parents,  and students who were scared to go to their school because of the drug or gang problems. I have also had kids who are actresses; models; and professional tennis, golf, and football players.  I have had students who wouldn’t graduate if they didn’t finish my class THAT week and students who were trying to bring their grades up overall. We offer the option to students who don’t have enough hours in the day to take an elective like Chinese, but really want to. We offer Advanced Placement classes to kids whose school doesn’t offer them. Oh, and one more important one – we offer a safe haven for kids who don’t fit in or are bullied.

Today at the playground I witnessed a sad scene. A little boy was left out from the other kids and was just walking behind them sadly. When he went to play with them, they were mean and rejected him. I know this can be the way of the world, but it broke my heart.  Tonight, while trying to sleep I kept seeing that image in my head and it made me think of all of the kids who go to school every day and just dread it. For those who loved high school and had friends, we probably can’t imagine what that is like. Imagine though, being the one who sits alone at a lunch table, who walks the halls by themselves, who no one misses when they are absent. That is bad enough. Now imagine that it’s worse than that. You go to school and the kids torment you. Maybe you stutter, or are overweight, or wear glasses, or have a limp, or don’t dress “right.” Maybe it is simply that a bully has decided you are an easy target. Whatever the reason, kids suffer in schools across the country every day. FLVS, and other virtual schools across the country, are an option for these kids. They can elect to take their classes from home – and not have to be subject to this treatment day in and day out.  Some make the argument that it isn’t really that bad and they should just “toughen up.” Others worry that these children are missing out on social interaction with their peers.

My argument would be that given the high number of students who self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, cutting, etc., many students at this age don’t have the ability to “toughen it out.” Given the amount of teenage suicides, some really cannot endure it. Also, if 95 percent of the social interaction that they are getting with their peers is negative, they probably won’t miss it when they are no longer there. When I think back to my days working at a traditional school, and I think about all of the kids who were sitting by themselves or were obviously sad, I know I tried to be a friendly face to them. If I am completely honest with myself, I know there are kids that slipped through the cracks…ones that I did not reach, and that makes me so sad. Who was their friendly face? Did they even have one? Here, at our school, they are able to work with peers who don’t judge them based on what they look like or how they dress. They go to live lessons together and chat in the chat box and they are happy. They joke back and forth and share little stories amongst each other. Many parents have told me that their kids have made way more friends here than they ever did at their old school.  What I wish I could say to kids who are having a hard time at school is that it will get better. What was so important when you were 16 years old, will one day seem so trivial. However, no 16 year old will believe that, because right now it is their reality. If they can just finish school and start the rest of their lives, they will realize how much better things will be. In the meantime, we offer them an option.

I have seen some articles lately saying some states don’t want to support virtual learning. I think this would be a shame for kids who need that option. Many of the kids I have mentioned earlier quite possibly would have dropped out of high school had they not enrolled at FLVS. To me, each of those kids who stayed with it and received their diploma is a success. Hopefully we made the experience a good one for them.

I wish I could say all of this to someone when they ask me about Florida Virtual School.

Post by: Shannon Wright, US History Instructor – FLVS Full Time Program

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