I’m going to confess something.
I don’t like wearing a mask.
For a few hours on Halloween it’s fine, but trying to teach middle schoolers through a piece of fabric for 8 hours a day is no one’s idea of professionalism or efficacy.
You know what else?
I hate getting shots.
When they put that vaccination needle to my arm, I had to turn my head away and think about something else. Both times.
But guess what?
I did them.
And I am still WILLING to do them again.
If teaching in 2021-22 requires wearing a mask and even getting a third booster to the Covid vaccine, I’ll do it.
You know why?
Because I am an adult.
Even if we have to go back to teaching students completely on-line (which I don’t want to do), I’ll put on my big boy pants and do it.
It’s not optimal. It causes problems for working parents, but it’s better than the alternative if infections continue to rise.
I’m not saying I like it.
I’m not saying I want to do any of this, but we have to deal with the world as we find it.
I don’t want to have to teach during a pandemic, but that’s the world we’re living in.
That’s the world we’ve MADE.
Time to face it.
After a summer where not enough people chose to get vaccinated, Covid-19 cases are on the rise again. And now we have the new more contagious delta variant that can even infect and be spread by those who got the shot.
We had a chance to turn things around in June and July. Frankly, we blew it.
Restrictions were lifted too early. Safety precautions continued to be politicized. Folks just pretended it was over.
All we had to do was be cautious and get our Fauci ouchies.
Not enough of us did.
So here we are.
I’m going to be honest with you.
I don’t want this school year to be as bad as last year.
The last year and a half has been a nightmare for classroom teachers like me.
We were teaching remote, then in-person, then BOTH at the same time! Social distancing was erratic because there just wasn’t the space, some students were chronically absent, kids and adults got sick every week but the authorities could never seem to admit anyone might have caught the disease at school…
I watched my district and most of those around me fail at almost every level.
And just when we looked to the government for support, we were told to waste whatever class time we were able to scrap together on another meaningless standardized test.
It was a year that left me feeling blamed for things beyond my control and silenced from the decision making process.
I felt unsafe, subordinate, impotent and neglected.
And I don’t want to do that again.
It’s no wonder that one in four teachers might not return to the classroom this year according to a survey given at the beginning of 2020 by the Rand Corporation.
Research from Education Week published this week had similar findings. According to Lora Bartlett, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 20 percent of teachers either have already left the profession or are actively seeking employment elsewhere.
Most years teaching has an 8% attraction rate, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Educators like me are simply sick of being ignored, scapegoated, deprofessionalized and or actively obstructed from doing our jobs.
But we didn’t make this situation.
We didn’t create Covid-19. We didn’t ignore the warnings that it was coming here, we didn’t dismantle the pandemic task force, didn’t shirk our duties to put adequate safety precautions in place, didn’t make compliance entirely voluntary, didn’t prioritize economics over public health or a multitude of other things that lead us down this deep, dark rabbit hole.
We’re dealing with the situation, and frankly the rest of the country needs to do the same.
We need universal masking in schools.
Not suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We need government mandates, and the fact that some states have mandated exactly the opposite just goes to show that some lawmakers aren’t grown up enough to do the job for which they were elected.
Magical thinking may get you re-elected, but it could also get me and my family killed.
Time for serious solutions.
While we’re at it, we need to require vaccinations for all eligible adults and children going to school in-person. Otherwise, we can find a remote option for them.
Because if we don’t, there are only two likely alternatives – a remote option for everyone or a steady increase in Covid cases in school. The former isn’t good and the later is just not acceptable at all.
We need frequent testing to see if anyone in the building has the disease – and NO I’m not talking about contact tracing. Anecdotes from people who unequivocally have the virus about who he or she may have come into close contact with is not good enough. We need blood tests – hard data.
Speaking of which, every district should have to prove they’ve been able to adequately circulate airflow in the buildings with HEPA filters and other equipment. If they can’t, the federal government should write them a check on the spot. Make them accountable for how they spend it, and make them accountable if they DON’T get the job done.
I know, I know.
This is America and no one can tell me what to do.
We live in a society, not the old West.
We already have a plethora of rules people have to abide by – even list of vaccinations you already need to be enrolled in school – mumps, measles, rubella, polio, etc. Just add Covid-19 to the list.
And grow the heck up.
Too many people can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
Too many people have bought the myths and legends about what it means to be an American.
That’s why they’re having conniptions that teachers might actually be including the history of racism in their history.
We’re a country that couldn’t exist if white settlers didn’t first steal the land we’re living on from native peoples. We’re a country founded by mostly slave holders.
You think that’s not an important part of history because you believe our own bull crap propaganda.
And that’s why you don’t have the mental acuity to deal with real problems like a global pandemic.
When this whole Covid thing began, many of us hoped when it was all over we’d have changed things for the better.
We thought they’ll have to change the old way of doing things just to survive this mess, so maybe when we put it all back together, we can put it back together better.
But the reality is, we couldn’t even figure out how to change things enough just to survive this.
In the United States, about 630,000 of us haven’t survived it – more than our soldiers who died in World War II (405,000), the Vietnam War (58,000) and the Korean War (36,000) combined.
I don’t want more people to die.
I don’t want more students and staff to get sick in schools.
I don’t want us to have to go back to remote instruction.
I don’t want this school year to be as bad or worse as the last year and a half.
And I’m willing to make sacrifices to make sure these don’t happen.
I’m willing to wear a mask all day in school and require others to do so, too.
I’m willing to be vaccinated (again if necessary) and make sure everyone eligible is, too.
I’m willing to do all these things I don’t want (and more) in order to make sure worse things don’t happen.
That’s the choice we’re left with today.
And if enough people aren’t grown up enough to make it correctly, we need to make it for them.
Or else we’re all choosing to let the worst come to pass – again.
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