“I am a high school orchestra teacher in metro Atlanta. I teach over 300 students a day at a wonderful school. Teachers are struggling down here in the South, where we have a lot of COVID-19 cases and a lot of people who aren’t being careful. This is my opinion as a teacher of how I am feeling as an educator. My district is preparing to open for in-person learning in a few weeks. Our district is allowing parents to choose in-person or digital, but I will have to teach both due to my subject. We are all pretty worried as we are heading back to school with very few answers. Being a teacher is the most amazing job ever, but we are facing a whole new set of challenges as school resumes.
This is long – but it has been on my heart.
I adore teaching — it is my passion and my dream job. My students bring me so much joy and laughter, and I learn so much from them each year. I truly feel so lucky to be a teacher. I spend a lot of time on professional learning to try to be the best teacher I can be! I am surrounded by AMAZING educator friends who are beyond dedicated and work tirelessly to make sure students get what they need. So, for the purpose of the ideas below, that is my frame of reference.
Please keep our teachers, school staff, and childcare workers in your thoughts and prayers. We are dealing with so many issues right now, and many of us are trying to remain super positive and cheery while secretly not sleeping as we worry about all the things including the health of your children and ourselves.
I am watching my friends collect cleaning supplies (me tooooo!), talk about making wills and medical power of attorneys, and the list goes on and on. These are not the same conversations we normally have in our teacher circles in July. Normally, we are buying stickers, classroom decor, flair pens, sharpies, and we are bragging about (oops, I mean sharing) all our creative lesson plans!
As schools are announcing their return plans, school faculty and staff have become the target of some of the cruelest and most insensitive comments and posts on social media. These posts and comments are absolutely demoralizing to educators and others working with kids. I am very discouraged by how much it appears many people have such little respect for school staff and the health and safety of others. In addition, I have seen people share articles and posts that are ridiculous and disrespectful to everyone faced with caring for children. It is absolutely shocking to me what low value is placed on those who care for children and the actual kids too. Teachers are often parents too, and we know the stress of these decisions and childcare choices, etc. But people have forgotten their manners!
There are many strange misconceptions out there about teachers especially. Let me help see if I can explain a few things from a school teacher’s perspective.
1. There is NO TEACHER UNION IN GEORGIA. Do I need to say it louder for the people in the back? Georgia is a right to work state, and there is no secret agenda with a teacher union in GA to take over the election. There is no union that we can call to swoop in and fix something we don’t like, good or bad. These are things I have actually seen multiple times over the last 3 weeks. What the what?!?
2. ‘Teachers are lazy, and that is why they don’t want in-person school.’ Ummmmm…WHAT?!?!
Research shows the average teacher workday is 10 hours 40 minutes. This came from a recent study from Scholastic. I am an extrovert as are many teachers — news flash — we don’t like staying home! Teachers are very hardworking, and our lawmakers and communities have long used guilt to get as much out of teachers as possible for as cheap as possible. A kid doesn’t have supplies — a teacher buys it because they don’t want kids not having what they need; a kid needs a snack — a teacher will provide it — no way we let a kid go hungry: Susie can’t afford viola lessons but really wants to get into youth orchestra — the teacher will teach her after school for free. We do this because we love our students and our jobs. I won’t even begin to tell you how many hours I worked during digital learning and what my teacher friends did too. I have seen teachers take kids to the eye doctor, buy clothes, school supplies, and food for kids… I could go on and on. Teachers are passionate, silly, convicted and many other things, but lazy is not a word I would pick for teachers.
3. Various fake news and false information with no data is being shared as fact. Please, please, please, use the CDC and health dept. to check your local stats. Use PEER-REVIEWED research to guide your knowledge. In this day, anyone can write anything on the Internet and call it fact. Please source stuff. Each district needs to make a decision based on community spread in their area — not what Bozo the Clown says on Twitter.
4. ‘Teachers are worried for no reason, and I want my tax money back if they have online school.’ I can’t even. You do realize we are constantly being asked to do more with less as teachers. Also, who do you think is teaching those online classes? Good grief… I am not touching this one — if you can’t see how little we invest in education compared to what we are willing to pay pro athletes, then we are probably not going to see things similarly. I pay taxes in a county my kid doesn’t go to school in… soooo what? Greater good people, the greater good!
5. We are being asked to risk our health to enter into our buildings, and if a school employee questions this, parents and others have said to ‘just quit and do something else.’ Many don’t get that we signed contracts months ago (like March), so teachers can’t just quit (plus if any teacher who had concerns or health risks quits, there would be very few teachers left.) I have health issues and help care for my mother who has an autoimmune lung disease. I think it is okay for me to have concerns. No teacher was trained for pandemic conditions. We are not healthcare workers or first responders. If you want us to suddenly become frontline pandemic workers, then we must have protection. We need PPE and cleaning supplies. We need proper ventilation systems that turn air over an appropriate number of times an hour with proper intake and outlet for air in the ceiling (do some research on this — it is stunning and scary), and we need clear plans in place to allow for social distancing. In addition, kids need to wear masks or face shields unless there is a medical exemption. I deserve to not have your kid’s germs all over me. There aren’t a lot of ways to distance from kids in a classroom. There is no warm water in school bathrooms and no paper towels. We have to do what we can do when we can’t do other things like social distancing.
6. Here is another — ‘Kids don’t really get that sick or die from COVID.’ Well, we are working with very limited data to make that assumption. Kids haven’t been in school during the pandemic, so we don’t actually know. I don’t particularly want my kid to be part of that medical experiment. We do know adults get sick. What number of sick or dead people from your neighborhood school is okay for you to not think it is an issue? What type of trauma will kids face if a teacher or classmate passes away? Also, there is a difference between morbidity and mortality. Even if you don’t die from COVID, it can make you very sick and leave you with permanent organ damage and neurological damage. We can’t predict which person gets a mild case and which dies. So… that’s fun.
Parents, friends, and community members, please remember teachers are humans too. We love your children, but we also deserve some protective measures and safety for our families in order for us to return to school. When you fire off these angry and often cruel posts, your child’s teachers may be reading it. We see when you like these posts or comments.
Teachers are out here trying really hard to get things ready for fall, but we could really use parent and community support. If you don’t have something supportive to say, maybe keep it moving.
There is no one else who wants school back to normal more than teachers, but right now things just won’t be normal. There won’t be anything normal about school this fall.
We need you to care about us and each other. We need help with supplies. We need you to work with your kids on good hygiene and other good health skills. And for the love of God, do not give them fever reducers so you can send them to school.
Remember, your reaction in front of your kids sets the tone for how they will react. Be positive in front of them — they look to you as a model for their reactions and behaviors. (I think a lot of stuff is dumb — like new math — but I tell my kid it is awesome! That is a grown-up problem, not a kid problem.)
Everyone will not be happy, but please at least try to find some good in whatever you choose as your child’s option for schooling this fall. Please show grace to those caring for your children. We are getting absolutely blasted by so many, and it is exhausting. And please be kind to everyone, and keep your germs to yourself!!!!”
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