"Kids need an opportunity at LEAST to get an education after a year of not getting one."—Larry Hogan, Maryland Governor.
Um, excuse me, what?
I can’t even begin to say how insulting and demoralizing it is for teachers to hear this comment right now from our state leadership.
Here is the quote in it’s entirety:
“We said at the press conference last week we still want to get kids back in school. Since then, I think five or six school systems have said they’re changing their plans, they’re going to start bringing kids back in schools.
That’s great progress.
But we also said, no, it’s not contingent on waiting until every teacher gets vaccinated.
The metrics are good, many schools have been open for five months without any vaccines. Every teacher doesn’t have to go back to school, if people don’t want to put their kids back in school, but certain kids, they need an opportunity at least to get an education after a year of not getting one.”
A couple of points worth addressing
“Many schools have been open for five months without any vaccines.”
I don’t doubt that there are schools that have been able to open without any vaccinations.
BUT! Where are those schools? Do they have a lower rate of infection in their county? Are they large schools? Is the school ventilation in good working order? Are schools requiring that all students and staff wear masks? What happens if a students refuses to wear a mask? Is there a sink available for hand washing? Who is supervising students during lunch? Is there an opportunity to learning outside?
Initially our county said that they wouldn’t enforce mask wearing or provide more than two masks per student all year long. Do you understand the kind of anxiety that brings to an already tense situation?
Reading between the lines
It’s the last part of this quote that is a slap in the face to teachers who have been working tirelessly this year, “…they [students] need at least an opportunity at least to get an education after a year of not getting one.”
That’s implying that teachers haven’t been teaching. It’s implying that teachers aren’t doing their jobs. So while it’s not an outright attack on teachers, it’s what’s not being said that is being heard loud and clear.
I don’t know when we’ve become so grace deficient that we have negatively attacked our teachers. Somehow, teachers have become the unwilling scapegoat of a system that has failed to protect them or taken their safety into consideration.
We have to remember that virtual learning not working for a child is NOT synonymous with a teacher failing a student. (H/t to a friend for this astute observation).
Teachers can work their tails off, but the virtual learning environment is still not working for some families. That is not the teacher’s fault. It’s not the family's fault. It is the consequence of an imperfect system in the middle of a pandemic.
I have four children who are in every level of education Kindergarten through high school. Do I want them to be able to attend their classes in person. Of course I do! Has it been safe? Not yet.
Vaccines? What vaccines?
It’s short sighted for Governor Hogan to declare that students haven’t received an education for the last year.
This is coming from a state where less than 7% of the total population has been able to receive the vaccine due to shortages. Of that 0.93% has had their second dose.
It’s easy for him to tell teachers to go back to the classroom when he has already been vaccinated. But what about everyone else?
We haven’t even gotten through Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination roll out. That has nothing to do with teachers. Many are willing and lining up to get their vaccinations so that they can return to the classroom only to be turned away because of unavailability.
My personal doctor said that he can’t even get his oncology nurses in line to get the vaccination at our local health center because they just don’t have the vaccines available. As a result, the nurses are going to sister hospitals out of state to receive their doses.
So if there aren’t enough vaccinations for the healthcare workers, how are public school teachers supposed to go back to their job in a classroom filled with students who can’t be vaccinated?
To dismiss and not even acknowledge all the hard work the teachers have done to educate their students in an imperfect system is demoralizing.
This was a missed opportunity to thank teachers for what they are doing, while at the same time acknowledging the difficulties of distance learning, and the hardship it has placed on students who thrive in an in person setting. You can do all of those things. You can acknowledge all of it. Words matter.
But by not choosing to thank teachers or commending them for their hard work, you fan the flames of discord between those who want to return to in person learning and those who are choosing to protect themselves and their loved ones from getting sick or possibly dying.
The kids who are struggling should absolutely be taken into the equation when making the decisions to reopen school building and go back to in person learning. But everyone should be taken into consideration. EVERYONE.
With or without the full quote, the knee jerk reaction of many educators was one of insult.
It’s really disheartening to know that you are doing everything to make your online learning community one filled with engaged learning and not receiving the support from the state or from the parents at large.
The reopening schools agenda should not be a place of discord. Instead it should be one built on community, grace, experience, and expertise.
It should not pit parents against teachers. What are we teaching our children if we can’t even speak to one another with civility and grace? I’ll say it again, WORDS MATTER. And I’ll add TONE MATTERS.
Everyone is experiencing this pandemic with a different lens
It goes back to that analogy (written by an unknown author) that we are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
“I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa…”
“…Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday…”
“…We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey…”
So instead of pointing fingers and saying that teachers don’t want to work or that parents don’t support teachers or that kids haven’t been learning, let's all take a deep breath and a step back.
It’s not about you. And it’s even about me. It’s about what can we do for each other.
Grace and understanding go a long way. So does acknowledgment and problem solving. So stop pointing fingers, stop saying that kids aren't being given an education, and start problem solving.
What are we going to do get students and staff back into a safe learning environment where everyone benefits?