by Kendra Vincent
I know that as a teacher I am supposed to be all positive at this point. The whole “we got this” and “I just can’t wait to see my students” and “I will give it my all and my best will be good enough.” But, y’all, I am not feeling it.
Do I want to see my students? Absolutely. But that’s the only question I can really answer. My students will see a happy, positive teacher on Monday. I will present our challenges as opportunities. I will make sure they know that I am happy to see each and every one of them and that I can’t wait to get to know them. And that will all be true, but it won’t be the whole truth, and getting there by Monday will require a lot more work. And a lot more continued work. Much more than my usual extra time that I spend.
When I go to my windowless classroom, I wear designated work shoes, scrubs, face mask, and face shield. I do not take off my face mask at anytime that I’m in the school building. This means I’m eating lunch outside (and will probably have to eventually resort to my car). This means I am not drinking anything throughout the day. And, this means my students will see very little of my face.
Here are my basic stats: ~120 in-person students and ~60 digital students. That’s ~30 students per period with 10 of them being digital. I agreed to teach “hyflex” because I was gullible enough to believe that would allow for my students to socially distance within my classroom (surprise – that is not true). This means I have to figure out how to teach face to face and digital students at the same time. The online platform we are required to use is new to me, and it currently doesn’t sync with our grade book or attendance system. Digital students will be using Zoom to attend each class period. I have a new prep this year. After 14 years of 9th and 10th grade, my 15th year in this district, I will be teaching 10th grade and 12th grade.
On top of all of this, I have to figure out what best practices look like in the time of Covid (without any guidance from the school or district). How do I teach without getting near my students? How do I conduct class without group work? I still have to use paper for my face to face students, because they don’t have access to computers during class. I can’t even get a laptop from the school for home use. I worry about not recognizing students because they have on masks. I worry that I will not be able to give my students what they need. And those are the simple worries. What about the students who refuse to wear masks? And what happens when students and teachers get sick?… I’m not sleeping; I’m crying and having panic attacks.
I don’t know how any of this is good for anyone.
Think about it.
If public schools were adequately funded, and then we were given some more funding to deal with Covid, it would be less risky. We know public school isn’t adequately funded, especially in Florida. And, my general perspective is that public education has been filling SO many gaps in society for so long. Just like with a lot of things, the pandemic is making this clear to more people – that we don’t have what we need and that we should be demanding more from the government and owning class.
School should not be seen as childcare. And instead of demanding students and teachers risk their lives returning to school “for the economy,” the real demand should be on businesses to be more flexible and to have lower productivity rates for their employees, because we’re working from home and balancing childcare/family responsibilities … and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. The thing I have been saying over and over to people is we need to quit demanding more from each other and instead demand more from the people who can actually make our lives easier/better – the owning class.