For many years, teachers in America have been at the same time held to a very high standard and completely disregarded. School districts have been underfunded for years. I left the profession in 2001 to stay home with my children and when I returned FOURTEEN years later, my salary hadn’t changed.
Can you name another profession where the salary hasn’t caught up to the cost of living?
It was teachers’ faults when students didn’t do well on testing, but teachers weren’t being given kudos if their students DID do well. We are asked to completely change our way of teaching every 5 years or so. We constantly spend our own money on things that our district can’t pay for, including materials that are essential for instruction.
Then the pandemic hit in March 2020, and suddenly the majority** of America’s teachers rose to the task of completely changing the way they taught, with no real training. We learned new platforms, and suddenly became filmmakers, making videos of our teaching, editing the videos, and posting them for students, then figuring out how to post assignments in such a way that they could be done online and turned in online. A good number of these teachers also did this at home with their families, who were also working and learning from home. (I had my college freshman home, plus my high school daughters and my husband. All of the kids doing their online lessons and finishing assignments while my husband worked from home and had many phone calls and meetings online WHILE I was recording lessons and talking to parents and creating content. I can’t even imagine how much harder it would have been had my children been in elementary school instead of high school and college.)
We tried (and sometimes succeeded) in teaching live lessons online. For those of us who couldn’t connect with the whole class at once, or had very small kids, we learned how to hold discussions and read-alouds while kids were talking to each other over the computer screen.
Parents were home with their kids, trying to “home school” as many talked about online. (I don’t agree that it was really “home school” but it’s a fun, cute way to talk about it I guess.) What parents did have to do was manage their children’s school lives while at the same time trying to work from home (or navigate unemployment, or get used to having your spouse and children home 24/7). Parents suddenly praised teachers, saying they deserved to be paid a million dollars a year and they’d buy whatever supplies teachers asked for when we got back to school.
Fast forward 4 months, and suddenly everyone has changed their tune. Parents are forming groups on facebook to discuss what should happen in school and what’s best for their families and there is almost NO mention of what would be asked of teachers. Once again, teachers are expendable – we should be ready to go back into the classroom and teach a certain amount of hours each day and then teach live synchronous lessons online, on top of that, plus give assignments in person and online.
According to our president and the woman he put in charge of education (who’s never taught a day in her life), we should be ready to teach 5 days a week with a full classroom, as if THERE IS NO PANDEMIC.
I don’t know what the answer is on how to teach this fall. Some days I am convinced that the best way to do it is completely virtual, as the Covid numbers are still rising. On the other hand, I know that my own children need to see teachers and friends in person for their own psyche and there is a great number of kids who will not get anything out of virtual learning. So, maybe the hybrid of part in class, part online will be best. What I don’t think will work is having a FULL class of students FIVE days a week.
Before the world stopped in March, we tried to do this for a week, and it was incredibly difficult. The custodians were overworked, the teachers were completely frazzled by trying to keep the kids from touching their faces and making them wash their hands, stay away from each other in line and on the rug, and not coughing or sneezing on each other. Schedules were staggered so we could separate the students during lunch and recess. Trying to keep 20-30 kids in our classrooms a “social distance” apart is absolutely impossible, as the classrooms are just not that big.
I don’t know what the 100% RIGHT answer is, but I know what it isn’t. And I know that, sadly, teachers aren’t being listened to or considered. Parents are mad that teachers aren’t just ready to jump right in and go back 5 days in the classroom.
Parents are demanding that teachers:
~Are ready to jump right in 100% back in the classroom
~Are ready to teach 100% online, for 3-6 hours of live lessons per day with students fully engaged and recorded lessons and assignments as well
~Be in the classroom with the kids AND doing live lessons after school hours for students on alternating days
What I hope can happen is that our leaders really find a way to keep everyone safe whatever way this ends up being done. It can’t be thrown together. If the numbers keep going up and people can’t do the minimum of wearing masks and social distancing, it should probably be done online until things get better. If numbers start to go down and we can truly flatten the curve again, then we can figure out a safe way to go back, with SMALLER class sizes. This, of course, means we need more teachers and ultimately more MONEY to truly pay for what we need to bring schools back successfully.
And I really do hope that when all is said and done the teachers are not forgotten and taken for granted again. I really hope that parents, principals, and leaders can really appreciate and take care of the teachers who show up and do their very best for the kids of America every day.
Side note – I still have no job for the fall right now. I’m still looking, and at the same time holding out hope I’ll get to return to my district, however that may look.
**I won’t say ALL teachers, because I know that some schools and districts out there didn’t have ANY distance learning, but I think that was the exception rather than the rule.