This was said so many times in March and April as we shifted into distance learning. Teaching is hard, planning is hard, actually let me correct that, Good teaching is hard. I can print off piles of worksheets, fined some youtube videos to make kids watch as “instruction” and call it a day but that isn’t really teaching.
By May I remember seeing less and less posts about the great job teachers were doing and more and more posts about how people just thought kids needed to go back to schools, despite knowing nothing about the virus at that point. By June there was a lot of “Really what are we paying teachers for if kids are not in the classroom?” So that million dollars was out the window I guess.
And now as we hit August and some are returning to school full time the public seemingly have upped the ante by saying not only teachers should be back in the building teaching full time but that we should do so without proper safety precautions. How we went from teachers deserve millions to you can’t wear a mask because it will make my child uncomfortable has my head spinning.
This is the first time in my career that I have felt I have very little value in the public eye. It has been eye opening but it shouldn’t be surprising. Peoples concerns tend to shift with the wind.
When we look at education when Covid-19 first entered the scene a lot of questions around equity came to the surface for some, mostly because it was the first time their privilege was challenged. For others equity has been and will likely always be an issue they champion and fight to address. Once governments magically found money they didn’t have before to provide laptops and hotspots to students those newly awakened Equity experts went back to their comfy life of writing education books with very little actual substance while teachers who had been doing the work long before Covid-19 continued to push and fight for students. This was followed by the police brutality that lead to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others with the spotlight being put on racial violence, Antiracist teaching and #blacklivesmatter. Again we saw the immediate flood of people calling for change, posting selfies with their protest signs, changing their Twitter bio, appointing themselves antiracist because they read White Fragility and planning their books to write despite only caring about these issues while they are in the spotlight. How do I know they only cared because of the spotlight? Because they stopped talking about it after two weeks.
This is common, immediate discomfort forces action and as that discomfort lessens so does the advocacy for change among those new to any cause.
And now we hit September. We are going back to school and this has always been a time of excitement for me. It still is a little bit but largely it is a time of trepidation. The unknown. Watching jurisdictions in North America open and shutdown within weeks because of Covid-19, we have forgotten about equity, many have moved on from #blacklivesmatter . We are now those maskless lunatics yelling in the face of police officers protecting the Governor of Michigan a few months back (none of them were assaulted or tear gassed by the way, like the violin protest in Colorado that was tear gassed). We (generalization) as a society are putting our need to resolve mild discomfort before the safety of students and teachers. Update on those maskless protesters that were protesting masks, many caught Covid, some died.
Our society tends to place comfort over equity and justice. If “I” am not impacted then we can figure out the rest. But we never figure out the rest. We leave those facing it to figure it out, often with minimal if any support and this usually impacts BIPOC families overwhelmingly.
A few years ago I saw a story that talked about a school that was on a reserve in Ontario that had not had running water for years. Many will blame mismanagement of funds by local leadership and they might be right but why wouldn’t the Federal government step in? They might say “Well, Treaty agreements keep us from getting involved. I teach history, treaty agreements have never kept white governments from infringing on the rights of indigenous people anywhere in the world. So the real answer is they did not think they were worth the investment. I imagine the same can be said for many schools in many areas around the world. We dismiss them after a while, our attention turns to the next big thing and most move on leaving those suffering to suffer and easing our collective minds because we have done the bare minimum.
Today I woke up angry because I see friends dismissing the concerns of teachers. I became angrier as I tried to sort through why the concerns around teacher safety and health are easily brushed aside as complaining, or lazy, or insert any of the other comments I saw this morning from parents in this province on a post that announced masks would be mandatory in Alberta schools from grade 4-12 when distancing wasn’t possible. Spoiler Alert distancing in schools is rarely possible. Parent after parent outraged that teachers want to do everything possible to keep themselves, their loved ones and their students safe. We are “afraid” we are “exaggerating” “enough is enough this needs to stop and they need to get back in the classroom and teach”.
We are not afraid, we just don’t want to get sick.
As our CMOH states often this virus isn’t gone and yet so many are choosing to believe it is. Or maybe it is that we just don’t matter enough to some. This week I have watched friends in the States resign their positions because their health was more important to them than a job. It was brave.
I don’t know if I am brave enough.
Then today our government accused teachers of being biased and teaching based on ideologies. They may as well have said we are trying to brainwash kids. They can’t back up these claims because they are false but people will believe it because after all teachers only should have been paid a million dollars in March.
Now we need to just get in there and teach.