Summer 2020 has provided many American families a much needed break from the stress and uncertainty of distance learning situations thrust upon us by the public health crisis caused by the Coronavirus global pandemic.
Many of us are hoping that there is a safe way to return our children to traditional schooling models when the doors are scheduled to open this fall, but as school boards and districts attempt to muddle through government guidelines under pressure from political leaders, parents, and educators to find an answer that benefits all, the virus continues to rear its ugly head in states across the nation as the death toll continues to climb.
It is an unfortunate place to be for all of us and there are no easy answers.
There are, however, plenty of opinions on the matter.
As much as we need to come together to fight this virus and keep our communities safe and healthy, the debates over how to do that are often just the things that are tearing us apart. Politics, blame, conspiracy theories, economics, fake news, and more seem to be sucking up the time we could more productively use on data analysis and factual discourse.
And, like so many topics of today, this is all heavily debated across social media platforms and within Facebook groups for all to witness. In the best scenarios, these conversations provide enlightenment, perspective, and an opportunity to learn. In the rest of them, often, not so much.
Things like compassion, understanding, gratitude, consideration, and perspective seem to be consistently replaced with bullying, disparagement, entitlement, selfishness and intolerance.
But I digress.
A recent Facebook post on my page, spawned by activity I witnessed in a group, asking people to remember the role public education is meant to play in our children’s lives while keeping the teachers and their own need for personal health and safety in mind garnered a deluge of responses from various teachers, administrators, and other school-based professionals echoing the desire that their thoughts, feelings, lives, and families be an important part of the discussion as national, state and local leaders begin to determine the fate of the schools.
Read the Facebook post here: DudeMom’s Facebook
The big idea: teachers want to be in the classroom with their students, they know it’s the best way for them to learn, they, better than anyone really, understand the importance the school plays in the lives of our children.
But also. They are people.
They have babies and spouses and parents who rely on them. They have their own various illnesses and issues that make going back into the classrooms with our children a risk that may cost them their lives, or that of someone they love. And they’re asking for consideration. They aren’t refusing to go, they aren’t even saying our kids shouldn’t, they’re just asking to be listened to. To be thought of. To be a part of the equation that factors into the solution.
And they have several questions.
Valid questions that government officials should be spending their time finding answers to – like who will provide all of the extra supplies needed now that sharing isn’t allowed, what will happen to their sick leave when they get sick or exposed to COVID and are forced to quarantine, how will the have time and be compensated for the work required to plan virtual lessons AND in class lessons, who will sub the classes when they’re sick, where is the money to convert their classes from tables to desks going to come from, and many hundreds of more questions being left unanswered while officials make sweeping statements and unrealistic demands.
I gathered their comments – their thoughts, their feelings, their fears and their questions – to share with you here because as much we need teachers to be there for our children, they need us to be there for them and theirs too.
Schools Reopening: What Your Teachers Want You to Know
We love what we do and we want to keep doing it.
“I love the kids, and I love the people I work with. Teachers and other school staff are some of the most amazing human beings on the planet. I’ve always loved my job, even in tough times.” –School Based Physical Therapist
“We all got into this for the kids, but right now it feels like now matter what we do… we lose.” –Elementary School Associate Principal
We agree, in-person school is what our kids need.
“I don’t pretend to know what’s best for everyone’s safety but I know that for educational and psychological health in person is best for the kids. Yet it hurts my heart that our well-being and the well-being of my family isn’t really being considered.” -1st Grade Teacher
“I’m a teacher. My personal kids and my students will be better off if we’re back in school.” -Middle School Spanish Teacher
But, what we’ll be able to provide in the current situation is also NOT the social or educational experience kids need or deserve.
Laura Funk, high school teacher in Colorado shared an eye opening post about what going back into the classroom at her school will actually look like. The funding required to provide even a semblance of normalcy for children under the current situation is nonexistent and never happening. From the need for more space and different furniture, to lab materials and even everyday pencils, there is no real way for children in most schools to even complete assignments they way they used to. You can read her post here: Teacher Shares What Science Class Will Look Like Under COVID Rules
We understand you have to work, we have to work too.
“I’m a teacher looking for a job. If I don’t get a teaching job this year, I will lose my house. If I do get a teaching job this year there’s a good chance I’ll get sick (possibly die) and/or lose my elderly high risk parents. Decisions, decisions .” -Special Ed. Teacher
“I can’t afford to be in a classroom for my health and I can’t afford to quit. My HS senior wants to return to school and I don’t blame him. My anxious middle schooler loved being home and I don’t blame her either because MIDDLE SCHOOL YALL. But she also has terrible ADHD and can’t be self directed to learn online alone and I have to work or we will be homeless.” –School Counselor
And, we have child care issues too.
“…my dad still works and my mom watches my kids if they’re sick. She’s immune compromised so they’ll have to go to daycare if they can’t be at school with me everyday. That’s an unexpected expense to a teachers salary just to go to work for a low salary to begin with.” –PreK 4 Teacher
“I have no other means to support us, and my back up plan has always been my parents who now are shut ins. Why is it up to the schools and teachers to carry the burdens of a broken world?” –Elementary School Counselor
But, we are afraid for our families (and ourselves, our coworkers, and our students).
“I’m a parent with a medically fragile child at THE HIGHEST RISK for this virus. I am also a teacher. I fear that I will have to choose between my job and my child’s health. We are already homeschooling both of our kids to limit exposure, but that will be all for naught if I am repeatedly exposed.” -K-12 ESOL Teacher
“I have an 87 year old dad who would probably die if I cut off access to my kids (for real, not exaggerating) and a 72 yo mother in law, both of whom watch my kids if I have to work when they don’t have school. I don’t want to bring it home to them myself, or for my kids to do so.” -Middle School Spanish Teacher
“I teach and as much as I want to see my students, many of whom school is their sanctuary, I am worried about my health and the health of my coworkers and students.” –1st Grade Teacher
And also, we’re hurt.
“Remember back in the good old days (April/May 2020) when everyone was like “OMG Teachers deserve ALL the pay! Teachers deserve ALL the respect! This is so HARD! Let’s all be thankful for teachers of the past, present and future!” And now it’s like… “F*ck the teachers. Deal with it. I want my kids in school AND they’re not wearing masks all day!” -Special Ed. Teacher
“I just really hope the powers that be start to consider our health and needs.” –1st Grade Teacher
The anxiety about next school year is weighing on us too.
“I’m a part time teacher and my husband is a principal and we have 2 kids in middle school. The cascade of unanswerable questions keeps me awake at night. Doesn’t help our current leadership has not a clue about education. I really can’t imagine that we’re going back in the fall. Total shit show. Deep breaths.” –4th Grade Teacher
“So I’m going back and my kids are too. But schools can’t even control head lice, and now we are supposed to manage C19? Who will take care of my kids and parents if I get sick and die? Who will take care of me when I feel gut wrenching remorse and have a mental breakdown for bringing home a virus capable of killing my parents or kids? I have no clue what will happen, but I feel like I am stuck with no way out.” –Elementary School Counselor
“Parent and 8th grade ELA teacher here: every scenario gives me anxiety.” –8th Grade Teacher
We don’t have the “right” answer either, but we want to be considered.
“I don’t know a good answer. We’ve stayed in our home since March so I don’t see the school returning to everyone attending no masks like the parents in our area are demanding. I don’t want to do eLearning either. I can’t do virtual. As far as I know, all I can do is wait to see what’s going to be decided and then plan.” –K4 Teacher