This Monday marked the date when teachers in our district returned to work. I am proud of our district and just about everything we do, so I’m not going to call anyone out. This post isn’t really about that anyway. Nothing in education is ever easy and the closer you get to it the more you realize that. I suppose it’s normal to take pot shots from the sidelines. The experts call it Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Our administrative team (at the campus and district level) have done a remarkable job considering the circumstances. I certainly couldn’t do any better. They have had virtually no guidance from the federal level and not a whole bunch from the state level in terms of scheduling. In fact, the general tact has been to avoid making decisions and then come in after the fact and criticize the local governments for making the decisions they did.
Most of the area districts decided to delay in person instruction until after Labor Day. Depending on where you are reading this, your local schools may have done something similar or something completely different. What we know for sure is that no matter what your school is doing, someone somewhere is pissed off about it. The district where I live had four protesters at the administration building protesting something. Maybe it was the delay in opening. Maybe it was the fact that they were opening at all. Maybe it was the inclusion of ketchup as a vegetable or the lack of a lacrosse team. No one is quite certain.
So, the tact that districts and cities are using is completely understandable. They incrementally consider school closures (or online learning) depending on the health data from the virus. So, we very well could see in person instruction delayed when we get further into August. This is especially true if the death rates and positive rates continue as they have been locally.
Politically this makes perfect sense. Educationally it is a bit more difficult. We effectively spent the summer in a holding pattern. We talked about the need to develop a more robust curriculum online and some districts did that, but collectively we twiddled our thumbs to see if we were going to get guidance from the state. Some guidance trickled in, but a robust curriculum was not in the offing. So, we limp along for three or four weeks at a time in hopes that something permanent will happen.
Meanwhile, we are inundated with the screams from all sides. One side screams that we need to go back to normal. Parents need to be able to work outside the home. The death rates among children is low and some argue that the infection rate is lower as well. Furthermore, staying home and away from friends is having an adverse psychological effect on children. Suicide rates are up across the board, but we are always acutely aware of that with children and teenagers in particular.
Most of those points are valid. We know that particularly among teenagers that infection rates are virtually the same as adults. So, that point isn’t valid. Teachers also know that schools are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Every teacher (especially newer teachers) are susceptible to infection. This doesn’t even mention those in high risk categories. When people talk about opening schools they rarely consider the adults. This includes the adults those kids will come home to.
So, how do we balance these two very different needs? Part of the frustration is that it shouldn’t be on us to make that call. We elect people to make those hard decisions for us. So far, they’ve punted it back to us. If a firm decision had been made earlier we could have had time to develop curriculum, procedures, protocols, and strategies for the chosen scenario. If it were at home instruction, we could figure out attendance, grading, and socialization. If it were complete in person instruction we could have answered all those questions too with time and resources. The half and half is what makes it hard.
Like many of you, I have aging parents, a child of my own, and my own health concerns to consider. I recently lost a friend from childhood very suddenly. Many of us are staring in the face of our mortality. My sister’s district even sent out an email to help teachers with will and estate planning. We are asked to self care and care for our students at the same time. Most of us do this gladly and do it every year. This year is just going to be a little tougher.
So, the next time you peruse social media and see someone demand their school taxes back because students may be remote learning just give all of this a second thought. Some of you may have seen parents demanding pay for “home schooling their children.” Are they the ones planning the lessons? Are they the ones grading those assignments and tests? Are they the ones answering phone calls and emails throughout the day and night? Everyone has it a little harder these days. We all want things to go back to normal. Just remember your child’s teacher is a little more apprehensive this year. They are a little more stressed. We are doing the best we can, but all of us have a little more on our plate and a little more on our minds.