I have now been teaching virtually for two and a half weeks. There are parts I like, but far more parts I dislike.
I like being able to stay home, be with Ruby (our dog), spend time with my children and not have to feel compelled to go anywhere. As much of an extrovert as I am, I really am a homebody.
I dislike staring at a screen all day, not having physical or verbal interactions with adults and students. I miss telling my classes to quiet down because they’re too loud. I miss my classroom. I miss spending time with my coworkers. I miss feeling like a professional, rather than a robot. I hate the feeling that I’m talking to myself; we can’t mandate that students have their cameras on, and I ask them to stay muted unless they’re talking. I miss the reactions when I say something funny (which is quite often). I miss feeling like an actual teacher.
I’m tired. My head hurts. I don’t like teaching online, but it’s the best/safest option. I’m worried about going back to campus & what that means with COVID, hybrid teaching, minimal guidance from the district, as well as not having enough cleaning supplies provided for my classroom to keep it clean and safe.
I also see how difficult online learning is for the students. As a parent of a sixth and ninth grader, I know how many hours they spend in front of their screens. I see the struggle when they can’t get in to a Teams meeting (Teams absolutely sucks, by the way), or when they get dropped from a call. I know the frustration when our WiFi isn’t working, as I’ve gotten kicked out of my own calls before.
I know how hard teachers are working to prepare lessons, keep students engaged and meet all of the required curriculum/criteria. I know how hard students are being asked to work, and hard it is for them (regardless of age) to sit still and stare at a screen all day. I know how hard parents are working to monitor and supervise the education of their child(ren), while often working a full-time job from home themselves.
None of this is ideal. None of this is how we wanted school to be. There are districts that are solely 100% in-person learning. There are districts that are a hybrid of in-person and eLearning. There are districts (like mine) that are 100% eLearning. Eventually, we will all be back in person on campus. No one knows that that will look like, or how long it’ll last.
I hear the arguments that teachers are lazy and we all want to stay home. I’m not sitting around, lounging eating BonBons all day. I’m getting headaches, eye strain, dark circles from lack of sleep. I’m worrying about my students who rely on school as a safe haven from poor home conditions, students who rely on breakfast and lunch from school as their only hot meals of the day, students who view their teachers as mentors and role models and need that daily interaction.
The people pushing for schools to reopen are people who are not in any way involved in education. Of course I want to go back to school in a normal way. I refuse to do so until it’s safe for me, my own children and my students. I will not put myself in a position in which I could get COVID and bring it home. I will not put my life on the line so right-wing nut jobs can get their way and have all kids back in school. The ones pushing for schools to reopen are the same ones who eat in restaurants, argue about mask mandates and believe that COVID is a hoax. It’s this ignorance that puts people’s lives at risk. I’m not here for that.
I’m old enough to remember a few months ago, when the world applauded teachers for how quickly we adapted and jumped into online teaching to finish out the 2019-2020 school year. Fast forward to the summer conversations that schools need to be reopened for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Some governors mandated that schools physically reopen at 100% capacity. Pictures circulated around the internet of students in crowded hallways without masks on. Colleges saw spikes in cases as campuses reopened. The president even said on several news outlets that children don’t carry the virus, so it’s safe for them to return to school. This, as usual, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Just because a student “looks” fine, doesn’t mean anything. You don’t know who else lives in their home. You have students with immunocompromised relatives, students who live in multi-generational homes, students who now have to work to support their families, students who live in unsanitary conditions… the list goes on. Not to mention the unknown and underlying health and home conditions of teachers and other school personnel.
So, until it’s safe for me to go back to campus and teach, I’ll be here at my dining room table. I will teach my classes while also serving as the household IT department and liaison between my own children and their teachers when we have a WiFi issue.
The next time you want to say that teachers are lazy, I challenge you to do what any of us do for one week. The truth is, you wouldn’t last one day.