Mark, a parent and middle-school teacher from a rural Piedmont county, is teaching in-person this year and worried it’s not safe. (As told to Cardinal & Pine reporter Sarah Ovaska)
[Editor’s note: Mark’s last name and school district were not used, out of his concern of being identifiable to his employer.]
It’s scary being a teacher this year. I teach at a middle school in a rural county in the Piedmont, and am a parent of a third grader.
My school district, unlike many others in the state, is having kids come to school for two days a week and do the rest of the week’s school work remotely. I wish we were doing all virtual schooling. I know it’s not perfect, but it seems too dangerous to be teaching inside school buildings, and having kids ride on buses.
I’m not seeing enough concern in my community about how dangerous this virus can be, and how quickly it can spread. For example, I was at a Lowe’s hardware store recently and the only people I saw wearing masks were myself and the people who worked there.
At the August school board meeting, none of the school board members wore masks when they made final decisions about what to do with this school year. To me, that sends the message that maybe even the decision makers are not taking things very seriously.
And when I was in my school preparing for classes before school started, half my colleagues were walking around without masks. I fear that because adults aren’t willing to follow the rules, that’s going to put us all at risk. I’ve seen these arguments break out between adults over whether or not to wear masks. What happens when I’ve got to deal with students who refuse to wear one?
The school I’m teaching in is an older building and the hallways are just a few feet across in places. Students have to squeeze down those hallways. In normal times, we’d be out there as teachers monitoring the hallways, but what’s going to happen this year? We’ll have cleaning duties to attend to but these are middle school students, after all, and you need to keep eyes on them. Are we going to be out there in the hallway with dozens of students crowded around us? That doesn’t seem safe in this pandemic.
It’s not that I don’t care about my students getting back to a daily routine, or that I don’t want to see them face to face. I absolutely do. Last spring was really tough and about a third of the students in our school just never logged in after we were all sent home in March. That’s awful, but there was nothing I and my colleagues could do. We reached out repeatedly and just never heard from the students or their families.
Lots of my students will likely be at home alone on the days they’re not here at the school, and I don’t know if they’re going to be doing work or getting enough food to eat. When they are here in a classroom, I can get them to learn but it’s just so hard when they’re not here to know what’s happening to them. I wish I could have all my students in my classroom full-time, but I don’t see how we can do that with the virus as prevalent as it is.
Since the school year started, there has been a lot of chaos and mixed messages. No one seems to know the answers to basic questions about schedules, processes and procedures. Two weeks in, students are shuffling between regular schooling and our county’s virtual option. I feel for our administrators and central office workers because they’re doing a difficult job under difficult circumstances, but I think we would be in a better place if teachers had been included in a little more of the planning for the year.
I’m optimistic about the hard work everyone is doing, but I worry that there are too many barriers to allowing students to get through a full year of the curriculum, much less recover the time they’ve missed. But we’re going to work as hard as we can until we can get back to where we’d like to be: back in the building where we can best serve all of our students.
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