Stop Blaming Teachers for Closed Schools. Blame the Coronavirus.

(Image via Shutterstock.)

By Kayce Smith, Steffany Gamsby

August 21, 2020

Two North Carolina educators respond to a wave of “public hostility” toward teachers as school districts across the state opt for remote learning. 

[Editor’s Note: Kayce Smith (@kayce23smith) is a coordinator of academic and behavioral supports at Myrtle Grove Middle School in New Hanover County Schools and Steffany Gamsby is a Spanish teacher at South Brunswick High School in Brunswick County Schools.]

As this annual return to school neared this month, public hostility towards schools, educational leaders, and teachers intensified. 

In Brunswick County, the district social media page even posted a plea to followers to avoid “abusive” and “threatening” language. 

Despite districts basing their decisions for temporary remote learning on data and expertise from our health professionals, some parent advocacy groups lobbying for a face-to-face return have forgotten the most crucial elements to be successful and sustainable: healthy school staff. 

As educator professionals with many colleagues who are also parents, we want to respond to some of the criticism that has been directed against educators and schools in our area.

It is crucial to know that teachers overall have had little to zero influence on these decisions and that the reason schools cannot re-open safely is not because of incompetence on the part of your local educational leaders. 

Jeff Gregorich, a local district superintendent in Arizona, explained the complexity of challenges well. A primary argument tends to focus on evidence about whether children can spread the virus. The unspoken assumption is an expectation that adult staff sacrifice our own health and that of our family members. 

At the end of the day, school staff and employees want to keep ourselves, our students, and by extension our communities, safe and healthy. 

As 4th graders at a Wake County private school have already proven, a face-to-face return to classrooms will result in staff and students quarantining for extended periods of time and likely having to go remote anyway as was the case in Georgia

This, along with the measures required to meet the Department of Health and Human Services requirements, is not sustainable for an already underfunded and under-resourced public education system.

As educators, we know how valuable it is for students to be able to attend school in person. 

Our lives and family dynamics are disrupted just like our students’ and their families’ while teaching remotely. We are craving social interaction with our students, we are wrestling with securing appropriate child-care for our own children, and we are losing sleep at night thinking about what the home experience of many of our students has been like these last few months. 

Students’ emotional and mental health needs are a concern for all of us. If this same passion for our children’s health were directed to advocating to the General Assembly to provide funding for more nurses, psychologists, counselors, and social workers in NC schools, then student health would be less of a concern mid-pandemic.

At the very least, as educational stakeholders adjust to new roles during this grave situation, we can 1) model becoming better consumers of information and 2) embrace diverse perspectives. 

One thing that would help in this first goal would be to better prove our social media claims by being more familiar with the bias across our media sources

Secondly, parents and decision-makers should ask themselves whether their groups include our entire population’s perspectives. Nationwide parent surveying shows inconsistency among racial, political, and economic lines concerning when and how schools should open. This is not a surprise given the well-documented disproportionate impact of the virus on communities of color. 

It is also important to note that in states where student voice has been surveyed, 84% of students agree with the decision to close schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We are in the continued midst of a global pandemic that will not soon go away. Ask any teacher and she will tell you that of utmost importance in our profession is the ability to quickly and effectively adapt to changing conditions and student needs. 

We wish to return to our classrooms with our students, but we will adapt to serve them as best we can for now while keeping our community safer. 

Language that blames and shames educators for the necessity of temporary remote learning devalues our humanity and profession and it sets a poor example for our youth. 

Let’s approach one another with the common goal of protecting our children and community and adapting to make the most of these uncertain and challenging times. Easier said than done, we know, but the only way to do it is to do it together.


CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


Local News

Related Stories
Share This