Guilford County mother turning to learning pods for income

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GREENSBORO, N.C — A Guilford County mom has now turned to learning pods to make the money she needs to live. But she worries superintendent Sharon Contreras’ view on this alternative will cut into her cash flow. 

Suzanne Bahr has been a substitute teacher for Guilford County Schools for years. Once the pandemic hit, she had to find another way to use her expertise and started teaching in learning pods. 

While Bahr understands concerns about the educational gap, she does not want everyone focused on economic status.  

“I just don’t want pod learning to come across as the haves vs. the have-nots. I think it’s a situation where everybody is doing the best that they can, including Guilford County Schools,” Bahr said. 

GCS is one of many school districts beginning the school year virtually. That kind of learning does not work for everyone, which is why some parents have enrolled their kids in pod learning.  

The pods are where a few families team up and have their children learn together. 

“If you don’t have that connection, students are not going to do as well. No matter what environment or what achievement level they are in,” Bahr said. 

It is something the superintendent of GCS is strongly against. 

“Wealthy families will take these teachers…provide for their children, and then the racial achievement gap will increase and life outcomes will ultimately decline because the educational outcome for students will decline.” Dr. Sharon Contreras said. 

Bahr said there’s always been an educational gap, but students shouldn’t have to suffer because of it. 

“We don’t need to ignore it, but we certainly don’t need to begrudge the families that are trying to find a way to work with their own children in lieu of looking for alternatives for the other situations,” Bahr said. 

Bahr has a special needs son and left the classroom because of the pandemic. She considers herself and other pod instructors liaisons for students and their teachers at school. 

They are people who re-enforce what students may not understand during virtual learning. 

What Bahr can’t understand is why it’s so hard for her to get the job she wants. 

“I do understand that teachers who are displaced from their regular situations should be placed first…but I did look for other viable solutions to work with students at risk, classrooms at risk, schools at risk, but I couldn’t find any.” 

Bahr even teaches kids in China learn how to speak English virtually. 

She wants substitutes to have an opportunity in this new way of learning. 

She believes they can help students who are falling behind because of underprivileged situations. 

Contreras reiterated her thoughts on learning pods at Tuesday’s GCS board meeting. She added that she fears teachers will be recruited to start teaching in pods. 

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