If you have not already, I recommend you take a look at Dave Grohl’s article in The Atlantic titled “In Defense of our Teachers”. It is beautifully written and has a prose that I wish I had the power in me to mimic.
In the article, he talks about his mom and the influences her life as a teacher had on him. He discusses how teachers live their life working day in and day out for their students, seeming never to stop even when it is dinnertime. He mentions stories of walking down grocery store aisles and how old students would walk up to his mom, long past her teaching prime, and still remember all the things she did for them. It is a beautiful article that, in a time where teachers feel unwanted and uncared for, was much needed.
Perhaps it is just me and I have wondered down the rabbit hole that is Facebook commentary one too many times, but the apparent indifference towards teachers is strong. I have seen comments that refer to us as lazy, Communists, agents of Deep State, enemies of the state, the list goes on. Maybe I have been so blinded by my love for teaching, but I have yet to meet a lazy, Communist, enemy of the state, secret agent for the Illuminati in the classrooms of the school I teach. And if I am the secret agent for the Illuminati, I must be really good at it because even I did not realize it!
Before going any further, understand that this is not advocating for or against closing schools. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find any educator calling for the closing of schools completely. No teacher, unless employed by Skynet, is going to tell you that online teaching is the best way to teach for educators or the best way to learn for students. Everyone agrees that school is the best place for our kids. It is where they get a proper education. It is where they get a sense of relief from the outside world, or as sad as it may be, their own home. For some students a teacher may be the only adult to show them what love and compassion truly looks like. So no, I am not in any way advocating for the complete closure of schools until we get this virus under control. In reality, even when a vaccine is available, it will still take time to provide that vaccine to millions of Americans; so really, it would be harmful to say schools should close until it is available.
With that being said, there is no wrong in saying that we should not open the doors and let the kids rush in with teachers unprepared and provided minimal precautions. Name a major issue in society that a teacher is not asked to be on the frontlines of, and I will give you $100 right now. So why is it so hard that a teacher simply asks for some form of precautions to minimalize their potential of getting a deadly disease? This does not make them enemies of the state; it makes us normal members of society. You would not send your child or loved one into a war without a loaded gun, so why is it so bad when a teacher asks for a mask mandate on staff and students? Why is it such a problem when a teacher claims they are fearful of what this school year will look like? We are worried and morale is extremely low, and seeing our profession labeled as incompetent and pawns of a certain political party, is rather insulting and only adds to our burden.
I am lucky to work in a system that, for the most part, has implemented certain criteria that will keep us safe. I may not agree with everything that has or has not been implemented, but overall I feel they have our backs. However, I know that this is not the case in every school system. Sadly, there are those where the most basic of precautions are being taken, while there are others whose state is mandating that all schools open without looking at any scientific data. As absurd as this is, it is the reality we are living in.
Teaching is my life. I am passionate about my profession and will always support my colleagues in the classroom. It is the toughest job I have had, but it is also the most meaningful. So when I ask that your kid wear his or her mask do not be offended. Do not attack me for simply asking to preserve their health and the health of others. Do not feel the need to bash me and those who teach. Instead, simply agree and help us work together to end the spread. We can all do our part to preserve a healthy school and classroom environment. Is it really worth the time and effort to attack someone for simply wishing to protect his or her students and their own loved ones at home?
In closing, I am no Dave Grohl. My prose is not quite at his level, but my firsthand experience in the classroom does give me a better understanding of how life works within the confines of a school. Kids are gross; and yes that may be insulting that I called your Little Johnny gross, but I have seen what they do when they sneeze, cough, and have a fever—it ain’t pretty! So work with us in keeping the virus out, help us reduce our local Covid numbers, and if you see a teacher you know, just help us feel loved.