Teachers are continually being made into scapegoats over a virus not under their control.
Here’s a list of classroom problems from the beginning of the pandemic.
Here’s a checklist on how to quit scapegoating teachers and help them instead. Suggestions from teachers, parents, and students, especially teachers currently teaching, are welcome.
Since the pandemic’s start, teachers have not felt supported by the medical community. Dr. Fauci wasn’t reassuring at the beginning of the pandemic.
From Education Week:
“In many respects, unfortunately, though this may sound a little scary and harsh—I don’t mean it to be that way—is that you’re going to actually be part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know. Remember, early on when we shut down the country as it were, the schools were shut down, so we don’t know the full impact, we don’t have the total database of knowing what there is to expect.”
It’s hard to believe doctors understand teachers’ problems. It might help if they visit schools and talk with teachers, not just at their own child’s schools.
Listening goes a long way towards understanding on both sides.
Generalizations are a problem, like when doctors and officials claim all schools are safe.
New school buildings with proper maintenance and ventilation are safer than old schools with antiquated HVAC systems.
Schools in communities with less Covid spread and hospitals and pediatric wards not overrun with Covid patients are perhaps safer.
Generalizing about these factors is too simplistic.
3. Learning Loss
Those who want schools open emphasize learning loss. It’s natural to assume that children might be behind due to Covid.
But students have not been without school. Teachers have taught in-person, hybrid, and remotely.
Students attended in-person school from September to December, and most teachers know how to switch to remote instruction.
There’s concern about mental health, yet what’s worrisome is the pressure placed on students, even kindergartners, to catch up.
Or NWEA, which sells assessment and catch-up materials. They’ve all got ponies in the show to say kids are behind. Their studies are more conjecture than proof.
The best judges of learning loss are teachers who directly work with students.
Doctors repeatedly emphasize the importance of masking in school. They seem to believe that all students should wear masks, but there’s no universal mask mandate.
Some school districts require masks. Some states fight mask mandates.
Also, cloth masks don’t work. Children should be wearing three-ply surgical masks, KN95 masks, or N95 masks. How many students wear the wrong mask?
Why do teachers have to purchase appropriate masks for their students?
5. Media Bias
First, there are the overrun pediatric hospitals and pictures of hospitalized children. Then a doctor proclaims schools are safe!
As one teacher put it, schools are magical!
The media criticizes teachers, after all, they’re vaccinated now or should be.
But teachers are committed to keeping students safe. Not that there’s anything wrong with fearing getting the virus or bringing it home to your family.
Rarely are teachers interviewed like the recent Amanpour and Company, including Emily Oster, an economist, and Dr. Wen, supportive of opening schools. There was no educator, no teacher working on the frontlines to push back.
6. Remote Learning
Most teachers connected with their students online during the pandemic. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better program is supposedly investing in broadband, and hopefully, most children have online access now.
Few students or teachers care for this kind of instruction but maybe learning how to adapt to imperfection and seek ways to connect also teaches valuable skills.
If we continue to get new variants, school districts will need to plan accordingly, and superintendents and mayors will have to support their efforts.
The school has become the place to address more than academics, hunger, health care, mental health, and child care.
Unequipped schools can’t address all of these social issues.
Leaders should be asking why so many Americans don’t have access to healthcare for their children, mental health, and child care.
8. Social Distancing
It doesn’t seem like there’s much discussion about social distancing. Isn’t it essential with Omicron, which is said to be easily transmissible?
So how do teachers enforce social distancing in overcrowded classrooms and hallways?
9. Students with Disabilities
We’re going on three years of Covid. Haven’t school boards and communities figured out a way to safely instruct students with special needs?
Have teachers been given a chance to provide input?
10. Teachers and Staff
Few doctors express concern over the mental and physical health toll on teachers. They ignore the realities teachers face with teacher and staff shortages.
Schools are systems, and when one part doesn’t work, it affects all the other parts.
How good is the quality of schooling if teachers and staff are out sick or have resigned?
If tests are critical, then schools must have access to them. Claiming schools have access to tests and teachers have certainty about Covid spread is a fantasy when schools don’t have enough tests.
But testing and the amount of testing required is confusing. Schools aren’t public health facilities. How much time goes into testing?
Testing is also expensive and as Education Week notes difficult for school districts to sustain.
See Consumer Reports: How Much Should It Cost to Get Tested for COVID-19?
When doctors speak of schools opening, they say vaccinations have made students safer. More children are vaccinated than at the start of the pandemic, but many are still not vaccinated.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, recently stated that just over 50% of children ages 12 to 18, and only 16% of those 5 to 11, are fully vaccinated.
And she said that pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest rate compared to any prior point in the pandemic.”
Teachers feel obligated to protect all children from Covid, including unvaccinated children and under five.
Doctors might assume that schools no longer have ventilation problems. Education Secretary Cardona implies that school districts received billions to remedy ventilation with the Build Back Better plan.
Still, not all school districts put that money towards fixing ventilation or other mitigation problems. Teachers often set up their air purifiers, and some teach in cold conditions with the windows open.
It would be nice to see more attention to school buildings and ventilation problems instead of sweeping this problem under the rug.
14. Venture Philanthropists
It would be nice to see all those philanthropists who have visions about running schools of the future, rolling up their sleeves, entering some poor schools, and seeing how they can help during the pandemic.
If Jeff Bezos isn’t afraid to fly into space, certainly he can teach a roomful of middle schoolers. Give Bill Gates a class of sixty high schoolers to teach for a month.
15. Working Parents
It’s essential to recognize the problems facing working parents who rely on school for child care. The PTA might be helpful.
Opening community centers, schools, churches, and libraries where students can work remotely, might be one solution for this subset of children.
Communities can’t ignore schools and school safety then criticize teachers for their concerns.
It’s time to stop scapegoating teachers and ensure that they either have safe conditions in their schools or are supported to help children learn remotely.
School districts need to plan accordingly, and those who blame teachers from afar need to get out of their comfort zones, visit teachers, and observe the real concerns they face.
It looks like Covid will be with us for a long time, and alternative set-ups for schools with teacher input are critical at this time and in the future.
Will, M. (2020, July 28). Anthony Fauci to Teachers: You’ll Be ‘Part of the Experiment’ in Reopening Schools. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/anthony-fauci-to-teachers-youll-be-part-of-the-experiment-in-reopening-schools/2020/07.
Lieberman, M. (2022, January 4). 4 Reasons COVID Testing Students and Teachers Is Now a Nightmare. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/four-reasons-covid-testing-students-and-teachers-is-now-a-nightmare/2022/01.