In less than a month, school is supposed to start. The starting date has been pushed back until after Labor Day by our governor. This week, the state school board will vote on whether or not to uphold the governor's decision.(Why that's even a thing, I have no idea) With all of the uncertainty created by Covid, this will look different all across the United States, actually even district by district. Right now, it is really difficult to be a teacher. I have had to step away from reading anything having to do with schools reopening and here's why:
1. Teachers want to go back! We miss being in our classrooms and being with our colleagues. For me, personally, I feel like I'm missing a part of my identity right now. Teaching is what I've been doing for over half my life! I miss those smiles, the funny things the kids say, my amazing classroom aides who make me laugh every single day. I miss the hugs and those ornery smiles that make you wonder what a kid is going to do next. I miss the collaboration with my peers and all of the smiles, laughs, and inside jokes.
2. When schools shut down last Spring, teachers were given no warning! None!! On Friday, March 13th, we met, after school, as a staff, to talk about what precautions to put in place, regarding cleaning and social distancing to get us through the week leading up to Spring Break. We were good to go. Then Sunday night we got a robo-call saying that schools in our district would not be opening on Monday and to expect an email about what was next. We met in grade-level teams and planned how we were going to make our way through uncharted waters doing something none of us had ever done before. And you know what? We did it! We adapted our lesson plans. We shared resources and activities. We did weekly one-on-one video chats. We had Zoom sing-alongs (which were life-giving, I think, for all of us!) We did our best to maintain relationships with all of our kids. Did some interest drop off after awhile? Yes. But we never stopped trying! Our district provided devices to families that didn't have one. They provided hotspots so families could connect.
3. I get so tired of hearing, "but not PreK." When we made the shift to distance learning, all the rest of the students had been assigned district email addresses...but not PreK. All other classes could use the Google Suite of tools and applications....but not PreK. We had to make due with what our families could access. Fortunately for my families, we had been utilizing a classroom Facebook group for everything going on in our classroom, so I just continued to share information there. It worked out fine and families were familiar with it, however there were things within Google Suites that would have enhanced the students' learning, had they been able to access it.
4. I am not willing to take the chance, and make my classroom a petri dish of a science experiment to see how children spread the disease. "Children can't get it." False. Children can also be asymptomatic carriers, bringing it in to the classroom for others to take home to family members who could be immunocompromised. Last year, I had a student diagnosed with leukemia. If another student had been a carrier of Covid, that would have been a life-or-death situation for my munchkin with cancer. And then there are all the kids with asthma. Their little lungs are already compromised.
5. What if I caught it? Is there some special dispensation for putting my life on the line just to do something I am so very passionate about? Will I have to use my sick days to self-quarantine? Currently, teachers are flocking to their attorneys to assign Power of Attorney and write Living Wills. It shouldn't be this way! Teaching has never been considered a hazardous job. But, right now, that's what it is. Teaching has never been about the money. Those who teach do it because they have a passion for it. That passion shouldn't cost them their lives.
Teachers deserve to feel safe. It's bad enough that we have to practice for an active shooter. We go to bat for our kids every.single.day. We love on kids who may only hear "I love you" at school. We give our kids healthy foods three times a day. We give them the safety and security to learn, make mistakes, and grow. We listen to them. We hear their stories, and sometimes those break our hearts. We teach them how to resolve conflicts without fighting. We teach them how to share, take turns, cooperate, and so much more! We genuinely care about each and every one of them.
Don't think for one single moment that your child's teachers are not struggling. Please don't blame the teachers and don't get mad at us. We aren't the ones making the decisions right now. We're just like you, waiting for the next proverbial shoe to drop. We don't know what's coming next, but whatever it is, please know that teachers will continue to go above and beyond for your child. We're scared, too!