Teacher Appreciation has taken on new meaning in 2020. This week is supposed to be a time to celebrate teachers with 20% off coupons, candy bars, notes, and thank you trinkets. A scrawled homemade card, laboriously designed by a student with learning difficulties, these are the keepers that bring teachers joy.
There’s more gratitude for teachers than ever this 2020 Springtime. The relationship between student, parent, and teacher has strengthened. Most parents will never look at teachers the same way again.
“Rethinking, reimagining, or revolution,” some of us have played with these words, thinking of what could be changed to make schools better when they reopen.
For school reformers these words are code for replacement of brick-and-mortar schools with online learning. They’re not looking at technology as a temporary fix during this crisis. They see this time as the way to push forward the all-tech agenda they’ve always promoted.
There’s nothing personalized about this, no research to show children learn best this way. There’s no discussion with the public. It’s a dangerous experiment. Dangerous to students, and dangerous for the country. It will wipe out employment for a huge number of people. Many teachers will lose their jobs.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who the nation has looked to for guidance and support during the Covid-19 crisis, speaks of reimagining education. He has already discussed cuts to education and layoffs of tens of thousands of staff.
His discussion yesterday about New York schools begins at 8:34 in the video below. It stunned educators and parents across the country.
One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal. When we do reopen our schools let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.
Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education, he’s spoken about it for years. I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas.
Surely Gov. Cuomo knows that Bill Gates has been poking his nose in how schools run for years. The public has repeatedly put up with his experiments because school districts are underfunded. They’ve matched his venture philanthropy with tax dollars. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s education reform ideas are known to repeatedly fail.
As Martin Levine in the Nonprofit Quarterly says,
No matter how brilliant the thinking is, top-down, externally formed answers to complex system problems often fail.
Their leadership, responsible only within the structure of the foundation itself, continues to wield the power of great wealth with little external control. Their investments mirror those of venture capital funds, looking for home runs and willing to accept many strikeouts along the way. But, as we can see from their work in education, their failures aren’t felt just by the Gates Foundation—they can deeply affect children, parents, teachers, and the future of our communities.
Gates doesn’t work with teachers to implement their ideas. He chooses those who subscribe to his ideas.
Gov. Cuomo should not focus on Gates’s vision until Gates gets a new prescription for his glasses! No. Better yet. Leave Mr. Gates alone when it comes to our schools.
Gov. Cuomo is a Democrat, but this destruction of public education using online learning is not only a Democratic goal. Parents and educators see former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush as the driving face of school reform, reform that squelches the voice of teachers.
Former Gov. Bush
An article In 2011 in Mother Jones, “Jeb Bush’s Cyber Attack on Public Schools,” describes Bush’s love for cyber learning. He’d given the commencement address for an online school in Columbus, Ohio. Bush glowingly described the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).
It was, he said, nothing short of a revolutionary approach, a way to meet “the unique needs of each student so that their God-given abilities are maximized, so they can pursue their dreams armed with the power of knowledge.”
In 2019, ECOT, which had become one of the largest online charter schools in the country, closed under a cloud of suspicion and failure. Deregulation and empty promises left students scrambling to return to their traditional public schools.
This hasn’t deterred Bush and friends from their love of virtual learning. He continues to push a reform agenda on public schools and has backed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos every step of the way.
Serious privacy concerns about the data collected on students is currently worrying parents during this crisis. They aren’t excited about online learning.
We learned how much they dislike it through an opinion piece Bush wrote for The Washington Post, “It’s time to embrace distance learning — and not just because of the coronavirus.” Bush’s essay generated 1. 2K comments as of this writing. While the idea of using some virtual learning and ensuring that all students have access is credible, ending public schools and replacing teachers with screens is not on anyone’s wish list.
Parents are uncomfortable with Bush’s idea of virtual learning. They’re not luddites, people who shun technology. They’re parents and educators who recognize technology is critical to schooling, but that it should never replace the teachers.
Bush’s essay backfired. Few want what he’s selling.
Teachers are doers! They don’t talk much about reimagining schools. They’re too busy teaching lessons from afar, trying to better understand the struggles children and their families are experiencing especially during this crisis.
When they do reimagine, they express the need for changes they’ve requested for years, changes they’ve fought for at Red for Ed rallies, like smaller class sizes, less testing, better resources and support.
As New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said about the Gates partnership:
If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state. Let’s secure the federal funding and new state revenues through taxes on the ultrawealthy that can go toward addressing these needs.
We know there’s a place for technology, and we can never, nor should we, go back to schools without it. But if ever a time could show us how valuable human connectedness is, that time is now. If only those who want to drastically change schools to their vision could see that.
Throw your support to the real experts, the teachers and staff who work with students in their schools! The future of this country depends on it. Thankfully, Americans are starting to realize that fact. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
Please view this video of an elementary school in Providence, RI, pre-pandemic, to see what children really need in their schools (hint: it’s not all screens all day every day) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQW5j23cAHI&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0VtsU73nBvG2nLP7xwFwftmpIeLDl6SWDukObs0zjhHW5SBu0lHodf8DY
and this song that describes the value of human, humane teachers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eoMnTesZ90&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR37HQlZY2wCif7nymz63fQ2AH9r2Mes6hkrCi09_RWSKaMgWSBcizI8nvI
and this song that excoriates “rigor” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE6Yw7Tkk4o&fbclid=IwAR3BQY1OQYjJz2GN8DEQByw5h316ruOsi50xMmPT1hZrG-uRjNts8lJrp6M
and this blog post from The Real Deal of Parenting on facebook, about what the current distance “learning” is doing to children and families:
“Sorry, I’m just tapped out.”
I said this to one of my kids’ teachers this morning as she requested a private zoom with my child and I.
At the same time as this, I had two other kids hopping on their google meets, I had to pull my oldest from her work to hold the baby, the kids’ Dad had a call just starting, and as I struggled with my laptop to even find which Godforsaken link I needed to even click, I was ready to crumble.
The laptop wouldn’t connect to the internet. The baby was fussing. My oldest was frustrated I had to pull her from what she was in the middle of. I had noise coming from each room with all the kids trying to, you know, “school”, and it took every fiber of my being not to throw the laptop off the table.
I’m one person trying to juggle the schedule for 5 kids and everyday I fluctuate between moments of having it together and seriously, well … losing it.
This isn’t normal.
Any of it.
Trying to function in the “unfunctionable.”
That’s the best way to explain all of this: trying to function in the unfunctionable.
As the teacher immediately noticed my temperament and disposition, she was kind and started by sympathizing to all I’m attempting to run here. When she asked about a couple lower scores on my daughter’s reading comprehension quizzes, whom by the way throughout the score year has had all high marks, I immediately let go.
“This is not an environment conducive for learning. It’s just not. My children have a loving and safe home, but no, it’s not a school. To be honest, most days it’s a shit show. There isn’t much peace and quiet through the day, and when one is trying to focus on some level of the house or in a certain room, you can hear another zoom call or herd of cattle coming through in another. So no, she’s not getting to concentrate nor having things able to completely sink in.”
And you know what? It felt so good to say that.
I wanted to scream it.
I wanted to cry while sharing that.
I wanted to pound my fists on the table after I got it all out.
But I found some last ounce of strength to hold some amount of composure conveying my exhausting frustration.
This all will be over soon. Right?
Or at least I keep telling myself.
This just isn’t normal.
Any of it.
We’re not supposed to be able to turn to our manuals of “living through a global pandemic and total, utter chaos” and just snap our fingers and handle this all with grace.
So for those who are looking for their white flags to raise and shake ferociously high in the air, you’re not alone.
It’s okay to not love this time and feel okay or good about it in every hour of every day.
I can’t think about tomorrow or the next day or how I’m going to get through next week. I’m literally taking it one day at a time and focusing on surviving the next hour.
This is no longer survival of the fittest.
It’s survival of those willing to adapt to the most abnormal time of our lives.
If you’re reading this and asking yourself how you can do it, well … good news is, you already are.
It may not always be pretty, but you’re doing it.
It’s suffice to say that my little breakdown to one of my kids’ teachers this morning was so well received and so appreciated on her end.
Here’s to getting one more hour in the books, my Friends.
There’s crumbs on my counter.
The dishes need done.
The laundry needs switched.
The dog needs to go out.
The baby needs fed.
A kid needs help on their work.
There’s massive bags under my eyes as I haven’t slept in 12 years.
I wore this outfit yesterday and to bed and today which is now tomorrow.
Here we go.
We’re freaking rockstars … every single one of us.
Michele Manhire says
Amen momma!! And I “only” have three, albeit three-with-needs, and IEP’s which can’t physically be met in this current environment. How you are doing this with 5 is beyond me. You go right ahead and vent… vent loud, and vent strong! We all need a lot more grace being shared in our communities, from school, from work, and especially from the banks! Try to remember, this too shall pass. That’s all I got to focus on lately…
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you! I appreciate your relaying this to everyone..
Nancy Bailey says
Rick B says
Cuomo can talk all he wants about Bill and Melinda’s pet dream. There is one simple reason this will never happen: Parents love their children too much to ever stand for it. And angry, righteous parents always win out.
Nancy Bailey says
I hope you are right, Rick. I remember a lot of parents didn’t like Common Core. Here we are with CC. I hope this will be different.
Rick B says
It is different for a few reasons. The CC standards were leveraged in place through the power of federal law as states were made an offer that they literally could not refuse. The RTTT provided a stealth attack that caught stakeholders by surprise.
Parent opposition did not organize for a few years until the CC testing disaster became clear. Cuomo’s proposal has no force of law and parent groups are highly organized. There is one serious issue that give Cuomo a bit of an advantage: eviscerated school budgets that result in slashed programs/staff – and the looming threat of continued infections, a possible second wave in the fall, and no vaccine on the horizon. Still, I’ll always put money on the righteous anger of parents. Time will tell.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks, Rick. Always good insight.
Rick B says
From the Diane Ravitch blog:
Most European schools have reopened for young children in the primary schools. We ought to follow their lead. There will be another wave of Covid-19, and subsequent waves, and some experts are saying that this will simply be another virus in the environment, like the influenza virus, and we need to face that fact and get back to a way of life that is sustainable. The main reason for lockdown was to try to keep the numbers down so as not to overwhelm the medical systems. Let’s reopen the schools, with smaller class sizes in all the grades, more teachers, more resources and support staff. This will also help re-energize the economy. It’s an opportunity to re-envision schools, but real schools, not remote learning.
Nancy Bailey says
It is good to see that parents and students value their public schools and miss their teachers. But I take a more conservative approach to reopening. I don’t see how students can social distance. Little ones will have a difficult time following that rule, and it is contrary to what children do and how they play.
With the recent outbreak of the Kawasaki-like disease, even though it still rare, it doesn’t seem like scientists have a handle on what this disease does to children. It is troubling too that their teachers could get the disease if schools reopen too soon.
I also don’t see how smaller class sizes will help, even though I am a proponent of smaller class sizes in general. I can’t see students social distancing. I don’t believe there are clear solutions at this time. It is worrisome on a number of levels.
But I appreciate your comment. I know many share your point of view. The economy is another terrible aspect of this disease. It doesn’t help children when their parents are struggling to survive.