I live in Maine, and on Friday our state released the color coding system for reopening schools: Red means schools should only conduct remote learning. Yellow means schools should adopt a hybrid method of in-person and remote learning. Green means schools may return to in-person learning if specific guidelines set by the state can be implemented. Somehow ALL counties were classified Green!
Our district has already been planning for a hybrid method and I think a lot of people were stunned that we were given a greenlight, but those specific guidelines that must be met will make in-person learning unrecognizable to most students, teachers, and families:
- Our classrooms were built to the smallest size allowed by law.
- We have 1 bathroom/sink in most rooms.
- We have kids dropped off visibly sick at school each day.
- We have a severe sub shortage to cover sick teachers’ classrooms every-single-day (pre-COVID).
- We have parents who are anti-maskers and many students who are not compliant with classroom rules.
In “normal times” these were challenges for teachers. During a pandemic they could be life-threatening.
For years teachers have felt the pressure to take on more and more responsibilities for raising our nation’s children. Because we love them, we willingly and passionately do it. We spend our own money, our own time, our own emotional and physical health sometimes to care for these kiddos.
For awhile this spring we actually felt valued by society as it became glaringly apparent how much schools and teachers do for the children of this country every single day when we were suddenly cut off from them. Parents, politicians, and the public were praising teachers…for awhile.
But the pandemic rages on, and public opinion is shifting. Memories are fading. Gratitude is fleeting. From one of the biggest voices on down we hear cries of,
“Schools need to open.” “Kids need to be in school.” “If schools don’t open, we defund them.” “That’s their job, they need to do it.“
And while I agree in normal times that that is the normal thing to do, we are NOT in normal times. Teachers are retiring and resigning. Teachers are scrambling to get their affairs in order, to strip classrooms, and to prepare for the scariest days of their careers ahead of them.
We know kids need to be in school, but do people realize that schools will not be what kids have known. It is not hyperbole to say they will resemble correctional institutions with the restrictions and protocols being implemented. Emphasis on isolating, distancing, and safety precautions will take priority. All the engaging learning techniques we implement to connect with and reach our students are no longer appropriate or safe.
I’m wondering, how will…
- 5 year olds who can’t keep shoes on and constantly chew their clothes be wearing masks all day?
- primary students who crave reassuring hugs stay 6 feet away?
- students sit in desks, in rows, with no personal items all day long?
- dysregulated students respond to even more rules and regulations?
- schools find substitutes willing to expose themselves to dozens of potentially deadly virus carriers each day?
- teachers know if they are safe, or if they are bringing COVID home along with their lessons plans and piles of grading?
And yet the pressure is on to move forward. The implication: If you really love your students, you’ll just do it.
And my heart breaks because there is no good solution and we really do love our students…
Another Good Read…
AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE by Suprikya Kelkar
I dare you to read this book without your mouth watering at all of the delicious Indian food being described! I also dare your heart not to melt a bit at the vulnerability and angst felt by 11 year old Lehka, born in Michigan of immigrant parents, who seems to live two lives: a home life filled with tradition and a school life where she is teased for her culture. Then a new neighbor moves in, Avantika and her family, who are new immigrants from India. Lehka worries that Avantika will be a victim of the xenophobia in her community, but is amazed at how Avantika isn’t afraid to stick up for herself. There are overt racist issues (hate crimes and the election of a xenophobic far-right senator) but there are a myriad of micro-aggressions that the girls endure as well, even from ‘nice people’. Even Lehka and Avantika realize their need to work on their own issues with colorism, tolerance, and how to be an ally. Slowly Lehka finds her own voice and realizes our society’s problems aren’t going away quickly, but that we can still make a positive impact one person at a time. I would have loved a glossary to help me with unfamiliar terms and language, but Kelkar does a pretty good job of using context to help the reader along. Another wonderful selection for #WeNeedDiverseBooks in our classrooms to promote understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for all people and to expand our definitions of being American.