We need a popular, national movement demanding action from our state and federal governments. However, in the meantime, there are several things our local school districts can do to stem the tide of educators fleeing the profession.
These are simple, cheap and common sense methods to encourage teachers to stay in the classroom and weather the storm.
However, let me be clear. None of these can solve the problem, alone. And even ALL of these will not stop the long-term flight of educators from our schools without better salaries and treatment.
1) Eliminate Unnecessary Tasks
The list of tasks an average teacher is expected to accomplish every day is completely unrealistic.
Think about it. Just to get through a normal day teachers need to provide instruction, discipline students, grade papers, facilitate classwork, troubleshoot technology, provide written and verbal feedback, counsel disputes, role model correct behavior, monitor the halls, lunches, breakfasts and unstructured time, meet with co-workers, follow Individual Education Plans, scaffold lessons for different learners and learning styles…
If we truly want to help teachers feel empowered to stay in the profession, we need to reduce the burden. And the best way to do that is to eliminate everything unnecessary from their plates.
That means no staff meeting just to have a staff meeting. No shotgun scattered initiatives that teachers are expected to execute and we’ll see what will stick. No reams of paperwork. No professional development that wasn’t specifically requested by teachers or is demonstrably useful.
I’m not saying we should tell teachers they don’t have to plan what they’re doing in their classes. I’m not sure how an educator could realistically enter a classroom of students and just wing it.
However, the process of writing and handing in formal lesson plans is absolutely unnecessary.
Teachers gain nothing from writing detailed plans about what they expect to do in their classes complete with reference to Common Core Academic Standards. They gain nothing from acting as subordinates to an all knowing administrator who probably has not been trained in their curriculum nor has their classroom experience teaching it.
For educators with at least 3-5 years under their belts, formal lesson plans are nothing but an invitation to micromanagement.
Parents need called. Papers need graded. Lessons need strategized. IEP’s need to be read, understood and put into practice.
All this can only happen within a temporal framework. If you don’t give teachers that framework – those minutes and hours – you’re just expecting they’ll do it at home, after school or some other time that will have to be stolen from their own families, robbed from their own needs and down time.
Every administrator on the planet preaches the need for self-care, but few actually offer the time to make it a reality.
Even if we could discover exactly how much time was necessary for every teacher to get everything done in a given day – that wouldn’t be enough time. Because teachers are human beings. We need time to process, to evaluate, to think and, yes, to rest.
I know sometimes I have to stop wrestling with a problem I’m having in class because I’m getting nowhere. After two decades in the classroom I’ve learned that sometimes you have to give your brain a rest and approach a problem again later from a different vantage point.
I need to read a scholarly article or even for pleasure. I need to watch YouTube videos that may be helpful to my students. I need to get up and go for a walk, perhaps even just socialize for a moment with my coworkers.
None of that is time wasted because my brain is still working. My unconscious is still trying untie the Gordian knot of my workday and when I finally sit down to revisit the issue, I often find it looser and more easily handled.
Not only will their work suffer but so will their health and willingness to continue on the job.
Some districts are finding creative ways to increase planning time such as releasing students early one day a week. We did that at my district last year and it was extremely helpful to meet all the additional duties required just to keep our building open. However, as the new school year dawned and decision makers decided to simply ignore continuing pandemic issues, this time went away.
If you take away their ability to do that, why would they stay?
4) Better Communication/ Better COVID Safety
Communication is a two way street.
You can’t have one person telling everyone else what to do and expect to have a good working relationship.
Administrators may get to make the final decision, but they need to listen to what their teachers tell them and take that into account before doing so.
This means setting aside the proper time to hear what your staff has to say.
Many administrators don’t want to do that because things can devolve into a series of complaints. But you know what? TOUGH.
It is your job to listen to those complaints and take them seriously.
Sometimes just allowing your staff to voice their concerns is helpful all in itself. Sometimes offering them space to speak sparks solutions to problems – and a whole room full of experienced, dedicated educators can solve any problem better than one or two managers locked away in the office.
However, not only do administrators need to listen, they need to speak.
When issues crop up, they need to make sure the staff is aware of what is happening.
Being a teacher should mean something to district leaders. And they should prove it in every thing they do.
The items I mentioned here go some ways to showing that respect.
Eliminating unnecessary tasks, not requiring formal lesson plans, respecting our planning time, better communicating and safety measures are all necessary to keeping your teachers in the classroom.
But they are not sufficient.
As a nation we need to change our attitude and treatment of teachers.
No profession exists without them. They create every other job that exists.
We need to start paying them accordingly. We need to start treating them as important as they are. We need to ensure that they have the time, tools and satisfaction necessary to be the best they can be.
No district can do that alone. No school director or administrator can do that.
But these are some ways you can start.
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Thursday, Propel teachers and other staff voted 236-82 to join the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).
The drive took 9 months to achieve. Propel enrolls about 4,000 students at 13 schools in Braddock Hills, Hazelwood, Homestead, McKeesport, Pitcairn, Turtle Creek, Munhall, McKees Rocks and the North Side.
They don’t have to be run by elected school boards. They don’t have to manage their business at public meetings. They don’t have to open their budgets to public review. Heck! They don’t even have to spend all the money they get from taxes on their students.
Nor do they have to accept every student in their coverage area. They can cherry pick whichever students they figure are cheapest to educate and those who they predict will have the highest test scores. And they can hide this discrimination behind a lottery or whatever other smoke screen they want because – Hey! The rules don’t apply to them!
Now you have to pay a living wage. You can’t demand people work evenings and weekends without paying them overtime. You have to provide safe working conditions for students and staff. And if you want to cut student services and pocket the difference, the staff is going to have something to say about that – AND YOU HAVE TO LISTEN!
How much will union power beat back charter bosses?
Will the worst financial gamblers abandon school privatization because unions make it too difficult to make handfuls of cash? One can hope.
If it happened, the only charters left standing would be those created without profit as their guiding principle. The goal would really have to be doing the best thing for children, not making shadowy figures in the background a truckload of money.
Do such charter schools even exist? Maybe. With staff continuing to unionize, maybe there will be even more of them.
However, even if all of them become altruistic, there still remains a problem.
DeShaun frowned but got ready anyway. He didn’t want to have to sit outside all day again. There were older kids in the park who got kids like him to run drugs during the day. He could make some money that way, but the only kids he knew who did that got hooked on their own supply. That or arrested.
Heck! He’d been arrested for loitering twice this year already.
“Hurry! Let’s go!” Mom shouted as she handed each child a yogurt and a bag of chips.
The bus was full even at this hour.
DeShaun recognized a bunch of kids who usually went to the daycare.
His best friend, Paul, used to ride the bus, but then his mom got him into the private school in the city. She and his dad had to cash in his entire school voucherAND pay an additional $10,000 a year, but they said it was worth it. Still, DeShaun missed his friend.
Octavia was standing a bit further down the aisle though. She was usually good for a trade. He guessed she’d take his yogurt for some Hot Cheetos.
When they got to the right stop, Mom gave his shoulder a squeeze and told him to watch out for his brother. She’d see him at the end of the day.
He and Marco made it just in time.
He saw Octavia get turned away at the door.
“Dang!” He said. He really wanted those Hot Cheetos.
He wanted to play with the toys in the Reward Room, but no one got in there before lunch.
Marco was crying.
“What’s wrong?” He said.
“I can’t find my iPad.”
“Didn’t you pack it?”
“I think I left it on the charger.”
“You dummy!” DeShaun said and handed Marco his own iPad.
“Take this,” he said. “I can use my phone.”
It had a huge crack on the screen but he could probably read through the jagged edges if he tried hard enough. That probably meant no Reward Room though.
First, he clicked on Edu-Mental. It wanted him to read through some stuff about math and do some problems. He couldn’t really see them but he could hear about them through his earbuds.
Then he didLang-izzy. There was a fun game where you had to shoot all the verbs in these sentences that scrolled across the screen faster and faster. But DeShaun’s timing was off and even though he knew the answers, he couldn’t get a high enough score to get a badge.
He skipped to Sky-ba-Bomb. It had a lot of videos but it was his least favorite. He couldn’t tell which ones were about history and which were advertisements. Plus he got so many pop ups after just a few minutes, he often had to disconnect from the wi-fi or restart his phone.
Oh, what now?
“Miss Lady,” Marco was saying.
The blonde haired new girl came over to him.
“What is it, Sweetie?”
“Can I go to the bathroom?”
She checked her iPad.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Honey. You’ve only been logged on for half an hour. Answer a few more questions and then you can go.”
DeShaun grabbed his shoulder and shook him.
“Why didn’t you go before we left home?”
“I didn’t have-ta go then. I have-ta go NOW!”
He could leave the daycare and go outside. There was even a filthy bathroom at the gas station a few blocks away. But if he left now someone outside was bound to take his spot. And Mom wouldn’t get a refund or nothing.
The blonde was about to walk away when DeShaun stopped her.
“He can take my pass. I’ve been on long enough.”
“That means you won’t get to go until after lunch,” she reminded him.
“I won’t drink anything,” he said.
She shrugged. That seemed to be her main way of communicating with people. She looked barely old enough to be out of daycare, herself.
DeShaun gave Marco his phone and sat there waiting for him to come back.
He remembered back in Mrs. Lemon’s class he could go to the bathroom anytime he wanted. In fact, he’d often wait until her period everyday to go to the bathroom. That way he’d have time to walk halfway around the building and look in all the open doorways and see what everyone was doing.
He could email a question to someone but rarely got an answer back.
When he first started going to daycare, he asked one of the workers a question. There used to be this nice lady, Miss Weathers. She would at least try to answer the kids questions but he thought she got in trouble for doing it and he hadn’t seen her here since.
…If you’re learning reading, writing and arithmetic.
What the heck is going on here!?
I thought the anti-science Trump CDC was a thing of the past.
Less than a month ago, health memos from the organization were being edited by Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. In September the White House blocked the agency from issuing a nationwide requirement that masks be worn on all public transportation.
Now with the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, you’d expect something different.
First, the average Super Bowl party only lasts a few hours. When not in remote or hybrid mode, schools typically are open 7-8 hours a day for five days a week, over 9 months.
You receive much more exposure to Covid-19 at school than at any Super Bowl party.
At both venues, people will be eating and drinking – the most dangerous time for infection. At parties, people may be snacking throughout the event. At school, students at least will eat lunch and probably breakfast not to mention possible snacks between meals. That’s approximately 180 breakfasts and lunches at which you are exposed to Covid compared with a few hours of nachos and pizza.
Moreover, the people attending these parties are mostly adults. Even with the likelihood that people will be drinking at these events, if you have responsible friends, these adults are much more likely to take precautions against infection than children. Kids are constantly fidgeting with their masks. Younger kids and some special needs students at many schools are even given mask breaks or excused from wearing them altogether. And that’s if the school in question has a mask mandate at all!
The idea that Covid doesn’t spread at school or is unlikely to spread is magical thinking.
Walensky, herself, went on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show where she repeated her controversial statement but added that other steps need to be taken to lower risks for teachers and students, as well, including masking, social distancing and more viral testing.
“Schools should be the last places closed and the first places opened,” Walensky said.
Again, that is not a scientific statement. It’s a political one.
For someone who claims to be separating science and politics, she sounds much more like a Biden surrogate than a science advisor.
But it’s not just Walensky. The organization she oversees has made some huge missteps on this same issue since Biden’s inauguration – emphasizing some studies and completely ignoring others that don’t support the party line.
CDC scientists published an article last week in the journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that claimed some schools were able to reopen safely by following safety precautions. In fact, this one article is the cornerstone of Walensky’s assertion that “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen.”
However, it was roundly criticized by the scientific community because the study was based on only 17 rural Wisconsin schools. Moreover, the data was based primarily on contact tracing. And considering that most children are asymptomatic even when infected with Covid-19, contact tracing is a poor method of determining how many people are infected in schools.
It’s not that the data is contradictory as much as the method the CDC is relying on is a poor indicator of infection.
Large-scale prevalence studies or antibody testing of students and teachers would much more accurately determine the relationship between educational settings and community transmission. But to date the CDC has not conducted any such studies.
The European Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) have acknowledged that children of all ages are susceptible to and can transmit Covid-19. Moreover, the organization admitted that school closures can contribute to a reduction in infections though by themselves such closures are not enough. It takes all of society working together to halt the spread of the virus.
Even England’s prime minister Boris Johnson conceded, “The problem is schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
But that’s not all. Take this study from southern India, published in the journal Science on November 6, which found children were spreading the virus among themselves and adults. Using both contact tracing and viral testing the study indicated that super-spreading events predominated, with approximately 5 percent of infected individuals accounting for 80 percent of secondary cases.
Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, member of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi, India, told NPR, “What we found in our study is that children were actually quite important. They were likely to get infected, particularly by young adults of the ages 20 to 40. They were likely to transmit the disease amongst themselves … and they also go out and infect people of all age groups, including the elderly. Many kids are silent spreaders in the sense that they don’t manifest the disease with symptoms. They happen to get infected as much as anyone else, and then they happen to spread it to other people.”
Why is none of this being considered by the CDC?
If the goal is to remove politics from science, shouldn’t the organization follow the evidence even if it goes against Biden’s school reopening policy?
Are these other studies invalidated because they were conducted in other parts of the world?
● A JAMA study published July 29 concluded that statewide school closures in the first wave of the pandemic led to a 62 percent decline in the incidence of COVID-19 per week. Similarly, the death rate saw a 58 percent decrease. States that closed earlier saw the most significant weekly reductions.
● According to a study published in Science, the combination of the closure of schools and universities, limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, and closing most nonessential businesses reduced the reproductive number (R0) to below one. These efforts reduced the number of infections in the community. Among the interventions listed, school closures and limiting gatherings to 10 people had the highest impact on slowing the infections.
● A Nature study published in November ranked the effectiveness of worldwide COVID-19 interventions. It concluded that the cancellation of small gatherings, closure of educational institutions, border restrictions, increased availability of PPE and individual restrictions were statistically significant in reducing the reproductive number (R0).
Where are these studies in the CDC’s analysis?
Because this is not about science. It is still about politics.
Despite it all, I knew I was one of the lucky ones.
It had been a long journey to this place, the Brentwood Volunteer Fire Department. And not just in miles.
I had spent the better part of a week trying to find a place here in Western Pennsylvania where I could even get the vaccine.
On Sunday, a teacher I’ve worked with for 15 years left me a message that she was going to Bloomfield with her husband. She had heard Wilson’s Pharmacy was giving out the vaccine. Like me, her husband has a heart condition and so qualified for the shot.
In the Keystone state, only medical personnel, people 65 and older or those with certain health conditions have been prioritized to get the vaccine so far.
They can cruise up to nearly any hospital and get a dose.
The rest of us have to make an appointment somewhere else – if we can find one.
I sat up in bed trying to decide if I wanted to drive all the way to Bloomfield on the off chance that they’d have a shot with my name on it. Considering that it was about an hour away if I left right then and the message from my co-worker was about a half hour old, I doubted my chances.
But as I showered and the sleep left me, I started to think I might roll the dice.
However, when I called the pharmacy on my way out the door, I was told they had run out of the medication.
And for most of that week, this was the closest I got.
I went on-line every day trying to find somewhere to get the vaccine. I tried Giant Eagle, Rite Aide, Allegheny County, various pharmacies, etc. All nada.
Sometimes I had to keep a browser window on my computer open for hours just to be turned down. Sometimes a hopeful page would pop up asking for information, and I’d fill it all in only to get the same negative message.
Now – for no discernible reason – school directors wanted to open back up.
Infections are still high throughout the county and the state. There is no justifiable reason to reopen except that decision makers are bored. That and they are tired of hearing people complain that we are taking too many precautions to protect kids. And those darn teachers and their all-powerful unions!
I knew I couldn’t go back to the classroom.
I hadn’t been back since March when we closed down the first time.
My only choice was to stay home using sick days or get fully vaccinated before returning to the classroom.
I wanted to do the later. I wanted to be there for my students. But that was looking like an impossibility.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s safe for the kids even if I am vaccinated. But after almost a year of fighting with school directors, administrators and some angry parents, I was willing to concede the point. These are their kids, after all. If parents think it’s safe, that’s their choice.
We don’t do this because we think it’s the best way to learn. We do it because we love her and don’t want to put her life in jeopardy.
I had about given up on ever getting back to the classroom, myself, when my cousin, Lora, texted me.
Her family and mine used to be fairly close when we were kids, but I hadn’t really talked to her much in recent years.
“Hi Steve. I wanted to see if you were able to get a vaccine appointment for yourself. My sister-in-law has been helping people in [group] 1A get appointments, and I know she wouldn’t mind looking for you… I’m worried about you with your heart condition…”
I was struck dumb.
I remembered Lora as this skinny little girl who tagged along after my brother and me. We used to put on little plays in my grandmother’s basement. I gave her some of my stuffed animals when I grew out of them.
When she was a teenager we didn’t get along very well. It was my fault. I was jealous of the time she took from my mom.
Frankly, I was a jerk to her. I know that now, and I’d felt terrible about it long before I got this text.
But here she was now – a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. She was no longer that little girl. She was no longer that annoying teen. She’s a grown woman with command of her field and the respect of her colleagues.
I’d already known that. What I didn’t know was that she had such a big heart. Big enough to encompass an asshole like me.
I think it was only a day later, maybe that very night that I got the email from Spartan Pharmacy that I had an appointment for the following afternoon.
I had signed up for Spartan’s waiting list before Lora contacted me. But she and her sister-in-law, Caity, knew I had an appointment almost before I did.
Lora says Caity is her “vaccine Angel.” I don’t think I’ve ever met her, but the two of them helped me through every step of the way.
I had to fill out a form before going to my appointment and the Website simply wouldn’t load. Too many people were probably trying to access it at the same time. Someone told me the next day that 15,000 people had signed up.
Lora and Caity sent me a copy by email an hour later.
I don’t see how I could have done any of this without them.
So the next day when I got to the Brentwood VFD, found one of the few available parking spaces and got into the long line in the bitter cold, I couldn’t really be upset by the discomfort of the situation.
Even when it started to snow, and my glove felt like it was almost nonexistent, I couldn’t get too down.
In about an hour or so, I knew I’d have the vaccine.
I had hope again – something that had been missing for far too long.
It wasn’t trouble free for those in line. Most of the people there were elderly. Many were in wheelchairs or had walkers.
One gentlemen fell on the cracked pavement and people from the crowd helped him back up. I remember his daughter kept asking him if he’d cracked his head.
But I was at the front of the line and entered the building then.
It was warm at least.
And the people there were very friendly.
Once inside, it didn’t take long at all before I was taking off my coat and rolling up my sleeve.
There was a slight pinch and that was it.
I gave them my paperwork, they gave me an appointment a month hence for my second dose and I was told to sit and wait for 15 minutes before leaving.
I had no side effects.
The next morning the injection site was a little sore but I’ve had worse bug bites.
And so here I am.
Some people worry about the vaccine because of how quickly it was developed, but not me.
I’ve seen the pictures and videos of our lawmakers and celebrities getting the shot. Even the disingenuous Covid deniers who claim the pandemic is all a hoax don’t let their “conviction” stop them from getting a dose.
That more than anything proves the vaccine’s veracity for me.
I know that once I get the second dose, I can still bring Covid home to those I love. But from what I’ve read, even if that happened it would be a weakened form of it.
There’s a lot of uncertainty – new strains of the disease that the vaccine may or may not protect against.
In a perfect world, we’d wait until the majority of people were as safeguarded as I am before getting on with everything. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
If anything, the virus has shown us how imperfect it is.
But it has also shown us the exact opposite – the power of kindness and love.
That all sends a message: We’re not here to protect and serve. We’re here to pacify and put down.
And like my choice of school attire, this message isn’t just for the observer. It’s for the wearer, too.
There’s no mistaking what you’re there to do with a sport jacket across your shoulders and a piece of fabric knotted around your neck. Just as I’m sure there’s no mistaking your intent when you survey the public behind a plexiglass helmet with a heavy wooden club in your gloved fist.
You’re a soldier and the protesters are your enemy.
Any individual police officer can act differently, but if they do, they’re going against the tide.
The fact that there was so much police brutality at nationwide anti-police brutality protests proves the need to radically rethink what it means to be law enforcement. And that starts with the money we put aside for this purpose.
If the police are not an occupying army, we shouldn’t fund them or outfit them like the military.
According to a recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data conducted by the Urban Institute, the cost of policing has tripled in the last four decades to $115 billion while violent crime has declined.
From 2014-19, New York City spent $41.1 billion on police and corrections while spending $9.9 billion on homeless services and $6.8 billion on housing preservation and development. If you combined the city’s spending on homelessness and housing and quadrupled it, that would still be less than what the city spent on policing and corrections.
Even before the Coronavirus pandemic ravaged the economy, legislators made deep cuts to other services like education, parks, libraries, housing, public transportation, youth programs, arts and culture, and many more. But police budgets have only gotten bigger or remained largely untouched.
If we don’t want the police to be militarized thugs that keep people in line by force, we shouldn’t give them the tools to do so. Officer Friendly doesn’t patrol in a tank and Barney Fife never fired a rubber bullet or tear gas canister at anyone in Mayberry.
The difference is significant. Rich districts spend $10,000 to $20,000 on each student, while poorer districts barely pull together $5,000-$6,000.
In addition, impoverished students have greater needs than rich ones. They often don’t have books in the home or access to Pre-kindergarten. Poor students often suffer from food insecurity, malnutrition, a lack of neonatal care, worse attendance, are less well rested and have greater special needs and suffer greater traumas than wealthier students. Moreover, it is no accident that the group privileged with an abundance of funding is made up mostly of white students and those being underprivileged are mostly students of color.
We’ve criminalized homelessness, drug addiction, even poverty, itself. And lacking a quality education increases a student’s chances of becoming part of the criminal justice system – the school-to-prison pipeline.
There’s always money for a new war or to subsidize fossil fuels or give billionaires another tax cut, but when it comes to teaching kids how to think critically about their world – time to take out the scissors and slash some budgets.
They ask legislators to enact a plan devised by the Albert Shanker Institute – a policy organization aligned with the American Federation for Teachers (AFT) – in which the federal government would give billions of dollars to districts in several phases to keep schools open. Then states would increase funding to levels before the Great Recession (2009-13), build up budget reserves and more equitably distribute capital.
Some experts expect to have a better picture of the damage by the end of the first or second week of May.
There has been no mass evictions (though that may eventually happen), so property taxes are probably stable at this point. But it’s unclear how much shuttered storefronts and skyrocketing unemployment will affect the picture.
“The seniors graduating this spring started kindergarten in the fall of 2007,” says Bruce Baker, professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and co-author of the Shanker Institute report.
“Most of these students have spent almost their entire K-12 careers in schools with less funding than there was when they started. If this happens again, it will be because we let it happen.”
We have to ask ourselves – will we continue to support a culture of death where war and inequality are prioritized over nurturing and care? Or will we finally engage in a culture of life, where education and equity are the driving forces of society?
We can continue to be the laughing stocks of the world with our guns and superstitions, or we can get off our asses and start working toward a better world for all.
The old ways will not work in this new millennium.
It is entirely unclear whether we will heed the call from this crisis or hide our heads in the sand.
But the future of our nation and the well-being of our children are being decided right here, right now, this very minute.
In it, I criticized Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and a Walton Family Foundation advisor who lambasted social distancing efforts as a response to the Coronavirus global pandemic, especially here in the United States. To varying degrees, they each thought it was acceptable to sacrifice children’s safety by reopening schools early if it would get businesses back up and running again.
I think that’s beyond ridiculous.
Here’s an excerpt:
The rich need the poor to get back to work. And they’re willing to put our lives on the line to do it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to risk my daughter’s life so that the stock market can open back up.
As a public school teacher, I’m not willing to bet my students lives so that the airlines and cruise industry can get back in the green.
Nor am I willing to gamble with my own life even if it means the NBA, NFL and MLB can start playing games and Hollywood can start premiering first run movies again.
My article seemed pretty reasonable to me, as it has to the more than 17,000 people who have read it since I first hit publish about 24 hours ago.
However, on Twitter, there was a vocal minority who took issue with me.
Someone from an account I won’t name (though he has more than 65,000 followers and the word “Libertarian” in his handle) retweeted my blog with the following comment:
“For the love of God. Students are more at risk of losing their homes and watching their parents split up or succumb to addiction or depression over losing their jobs than they are at risk of ever contracting this virus.”
He had lots of folks who agreed with him.
Their comments seemed to fit into two categories: (1) quarantine sucks, or (2) they’re MY kids you stoopid gubmint Skool teacher!
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of such comments.
How can anyone really be against keeping children safe from a deadly virus?
Hey XXX thanks for sharing my blog post to so many people who probably would not have seen it otherwise. However, I think your criticism is unfounded. You seem to be saying that quarantine sucks. Yes, it DOES suck. But putting kids lives at risk is worse…
…While it’s true that kids are often asymptomatic, they do get COVID-19 and become carriers. If we reopen the schools too soon, most kids won’t die, but they’ll bring the virus home to mom, dad and the grandparents who are much more susceptible…
…What’s worse is that when you get COVID-19 you’re often asymptomatic for the first week or so. Even adults become carriers though they have a greater chance of eventually getting much worse. That’s why we’re doing social distancing now – to stop the spread…
…We want to give hospitals a chance to treat sick people as they come in and not all at once. Even discounting the effect on children, schools are staffed by adults – many over 55 and with existing health conditions. It’s unfair to make them risk their lives…
…Teachers shouldn’t have to risk their lives – and their families lives – to do their jobs. Seems to me that’s actually a pretty libertarian position. Your political freedom and autonomy seem pretty constrained in a coffin. Thanks for listening.
I don’t know if it will do any good, but I thought the readers of my blog might like to know about it.
After all, if there’s anything more viral than COVID-19, it’s ignorance.
Like this post? You might want to consider becoming a Patreon subscriber. This helps me continue to keep the blog going and get on with this difficult and challenging work.
Your kids have to get themselves to school. They have to get themselves home. And helping with homework, talking about their days, even setting a good example are all luxuries you have to pay dearly for with an ever-shrinking amount of time.
Parents and kids schedules aren’t aligned? Well, align them then. Have kids in class from 9 to 5 just like their parents.
Not only will that make it easier for adults to take them to-and-from school, but it will prepare kids for the rigors of the adult world.
The neoliberal Center for American Progress, for instance, suggests that synching the school and workday would better allow parents to meet their obligations to their children.
This is especially true, they say, for kids in low-income communities where competitive grant programs could fund the initiative while also holding the money hostage unless their schools engage in more test prep as part of their curriculums.
It’s a terrible idea proposed by terrible individuals working for billionaire philanthrocapitalists.
The think tank is run by John Podesta who was chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and manager of President Barack Obama’s transition team – which tells you a lot about Democratic politics of the last several decades.
However, it does hold a kernel of truth.
The school and workday ARE out of step with each other.
This DOES cause problems.
Something SHOULD be done.
But the solution isn’t to lengthen the time kids are required to spend in the classroom. It is solved by reducing the amount of time their parents have to stay at work.
Think about it.
A LONGER SCHOOL DAY WOULD BE HARMFUL TO STUDENTS
Currently, most children attend school for six to seven hours a day.
Students in rural areas or those who live the farthest from school would be the most impacted. Many kids get to school early for breakfast. So if classes began at 9 am, many kids would need to get to school by 8:30 am at the latest – that could mean leaving home by 7:30 am. If the school day ended at 5 pm, these same kids wouldn’t get home until 6 to 7 pm or later.
This would not lead to better academic performance or well adjusted kids. It would result in exhausted and burned out students. Some – perhaps many – would probably cut out after-school activities which would hurt their social, emotional and physical development.
Moreover, kids need time – free time – to discover who they are. They need time to spend with friends, build relationships and enjoy themselves.
They shouldn’t be forced to be adults before they are developmentally ready to do so.
“Many of our children are already stretched to unhealthy breaking points, loaded down with excessive homework, extracurricular activities and outside tutoring because they’re led to believe high test scores, a slew of Advanced Placement classes and a packed résumé are their ticket to college and success. This has led to an epidemic of anxious, unhealthy, sleep-deprived, burned-out, disengaged, unprepared children — and overwhelmed and discouraged teachers. The key is creating a healthier, more balanced, more engaging and effective school day, not a longer one.”
Moreover, this is not what other high achieving nations do to succeed. Countries like Finland, Singapore, and China have SHORTER school days – not longer ones. They just try to make the most of the class time they have.
Maybe instead of listening to think tank fools like Podesta, we should pay attention to educators around the world.
And this is to say nothing of cost.
Nine years ago, it took $10 million to lengthen the day at 50 Chicago schools. Each school got $150,000 just to pay for additional salary to compensate teachers for the extra time. The district projected that it would have cost $84 million to increase the program to all its schools.
But that doesn’t include the cost for additional electricity, maintenance and other utilities which is more difficult to estimate.
This is the definition of doing more with less. More time, less quality.
SHORTENING THE ADULT WORK WEEK
It would make far more sense to cut parents’ time at work than to increase children’s time at school.
Adults already work too many hours as it is.
In fact, doing so actually makes adults better at their jobs.
That’s not just conjecture or wish fulfillment. It’s been tried and proven correct.
In 2019, Microsoft conducted an experiment at its offices in Japan where employees had to take every Friday off as a paid vacation day. The result was a boost in productivity of 40 percent.
In 2018, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trustee services firm, did almost the same thing on a trial basis. It had employees work four eight-hour days a week but paid them for five. Once again this resulted in an increase in productivity, but also lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction.
The idea of a 32-hour workweek (instead of the traditional 40) is gaining support. After all, much of our time on the job is wasted.
The average number of truly productive hours in an eight-hour day is two hours and 53 minutes, according to a survey of U.K. office workers. Human beings aren’t robots. We can’t just sit at our desks and work. We have all these pointless meetings, frivolous emails and phone calls, co-worker discussions, disruptions and distractions. Imagine if we didn’t have to waste so much time and could focus on other endeavors after putting in a few effective hours at the office. We could get things done and still have time to live our lives.
The five-day, 40-hour workweek is a relatively new invention. A century ago, it was not uncommon for people to work six ten-hour days with only Sundays off for religious worship. Then Henry Ford started giving his autoworkers more time off to create leisure time – so they might have reason to actually buy the cars they were making. It became common practice throughout the country in 1938 when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law was meant to improve conditions and pay for manufacturing workers – and it did that. However, that doesn’t mean it was the be all, end all. We should continue the trend to shorten the workweek even further.
In fact, this is what people expected would happen – that work hours would continue to shrink over time.
However, the trend changed in the 1970s as Americans started spending more – not less – time at their jobs. This also coincided with the weakening of labor unions, corporate downsizing and demanding more from employees for decreasing wages and benefits.
Now the US and Korea lead the developed world in long workdays. Americans average 1,786 work hours a year, which is 423 more hours than workers in Germany and over 100 hours more than workers in Japan, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
These long hours take a toll on our health and well-being.
It’s telling that instead of realizing that adults need fewer hours on the job, policy wonks try to convince us to make our children shoulder the same burden.
It reminds me of Max Weber’s thesis in his seminal “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” In the book, the sociologist and economist argues that underneath our economic values lies an abiding belief in a Puritan work ethic. The value of work is given a religious and ethical fervor far beyond what it gains us monetarily.
Perhaps we need to take a step back from these unconscious and toxic values to see what is really in the best interests of individuals and families.