Let me preface this by saying that I am passionate about education. I enjoy being a student, and I love being a teacher. Of all of the things that I joke about in life, my job as a teacher is taken very seriously. Also, I love my students. LOVE THEM. Would-bring-them-all-home-with-me-without-calling-my-husband-first kind of love.
Right now, I can’t sleep at night. I have this turmoil built up inside of me that physically hurts. If you are a teacher who can say with 100% certainty that you are not worried about any of your students or their ability to do learning from a distance, then you are blessed and this isn’t about you. I am not that lucky. I didn’t really feel like going out and gathering numbers but just knowing what I know, I have to assume that there aren’t many teachers out there who can say with 100% certainty that their students are just as fine at home as they would be at school.
You have to love the zealousness of teachers across the nation right now. Admire it. Be inspired by it! Governors across the country said, “We are going to close the schools.” And teachers said, “Have no fear! We have never done anything like this and no one has any idea what they are doing, but we got this!” But, why? I haven’t heard any direction from Dept. of Ed on the national or state level which is why every single school has been left to navigate this on their own. There is no consistency between schools. The ENTIRE country is in the same exact boat, so how can anyone possibly expect us to be held to the same standard of teaching and expectation of time as if school was in session? Teachers are just supposed to naturally sacrifice themselves in a time of crisis? Do we really feel like we have to validate the paycheck that badly? Asking our families to adjust to us doing our jobs from home has been one wild experience for me, personally. Requiring teachers to report to their buildings during regular contract hours is ridiculous and kind of defeats the purpose of closing the school buildings. As far as I know, teachers are not immune to COVID. (Would be cool though, huh? Add that to our tool belt of superpowers!) Now, I am not saying we sit around and do nothing and treat this like a vacation. But lesson plans? Standards? Taking grades? It shouldn’t even be part of the discussion right now.
One little word. Equity. I can not even touch on any other topic without coming face to face with that word. Packets, online discussions, chats, phone calls, videos, all the bells and whistles… doesn’t matter. Nothing that you do outside of your classroom can be considered equitable. You can not require work to be sent back for grades and you can not expect new learning to take place. At best, you can hope that our students simply retain the things they have already learned. Distance learning in this specific situation is not an equal opportunity for every single one of our students. No one signed up for this and no one was prepared for it. (Also, side note, I am not a scientist but are we sure sending packets back and forth is really the smartest idea??)
Again, if you log in to your computer every day and hold discussions with 100% of your students every day and 100% of your students are completing every worksheet of busy work that you are sending home and doing their absolute best effort every time, then I am really REALLY happy for you. But, who is going to fight for that kid that doesn’t have a sharpened pencil or the kid who’s packet got ruined by little sister or brother that they are babysitting during mom’s 12 hour shift? Who is going to stand up for that kid who doesn’t have electricity, let alone internet access? What about the kids who live in unsafe homes? There is no comfort and routine in a living situation like that. No one is sitting next to them explaining directions or helping them when they get stuck. How can we expect those kids to be worried about a packet of worksheets? They don’t even know about those online class meetings, because they don’t have a phone and neither does anyone else in the home. You know who fights for students in those situations? No one. Except teachers. Where are you?
No complaint is valid without a suggestion for a solution right? Let’s focus on our high school seniors first. Let’s put all of our manpower into getting those young people their credits so that they don’t have to spend the rest of their life a semester behind and trying to play catch up. Give them hotspots, devices, personal tutor, whatever it takes. They are only a couple months short of their diploma. Everyone else on down to kindergarten will be fine. THEY WILL BE FINE! We were about two months from completing the school year and while there was still a lot to be done, we can feel good about getting through the MAJORITY of the school year. No need to panic and no need to have kids doing hours of school work at home. Am I suggesting that teachers do absolutely nothing? Of course not! First of all, not go to the school building where you could potentially become infected or infect others! Continue reaching out to as many students and families as possible as often as possible. They need to hear from us. If they ask for work for their student, send it. If they ask how they can help their child, offer advice and resources. You know your students best, so keep meeting their needs the best you can doing what you are comfortable doing. Communication and compassion is what is going to get us through this. We could also spend this time preparing for what we will be up against when we come back because that is the work that is actually going to matter! Every teacher will go back in the fall knowing that they will have some ground to make up and we will do like we always do and meet our kids where they are. Bottom line, we will all be just fine, and we will adapt like always.
I am blessed to teach in a student-centered district that isn’t requiring anything outlandish, so really I could just sit down and shut up and not worry about it. But so many teachers and students that I love have unreasonable expectations strapped to their backs right now. Do what you feel you have to do to appease your administrator, but please stop stressing yourself out over something that really doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things and fight for those students that need you! This is scary. People are sick and dying. I am not worried about standards and actually teaching right now. I am worried about my fellow teachers, my students, and their families as humans! I hope they are safe and warm and being loved. The best thing that I can wish for is to see all of my students again and to see their smiling faces because their families are still intact.