There's a peculiar sort of shame being thrown toward teachers of late. A certain set of essential workers, tired from working day in and day out in scary situations, have been complaining, loudly, …
There's a peculiar sort of shame being thrown toward teachers of late. A certain set of essential workers, tired from working day in and day out in scary situations, have been complaining, loudly, that teachers scared to return to the classroom need to buck up and go back to work.
I can't imagine what it must be like to go to work every day afraid that this day might be the day you encounter someone who gives you a deadly virus. I'm grateful for every grocery store worker, every pharmacy worker, every janitor, every nurse, every doctor, every cafeteria staff member and everyone else on a list too long for this short column.
I know too — all too well — that parents are desperate to bring some normalcy back into the lives of our children, that they're afraid of what our children are losing with every second spent outside of a “normal” educational system.
I am a parent.
But schools are unlike any other place in America.
They're places where people spend a sustained amount of time together, time spent in close proximity to one another.
They're places full of what even we parents have to admit are small germ factories: our children.
Kids cough and sneeze with no real sense of covering their mouths.
They pick boogers and smear them on desks.
They touch things and then touch their mouths.
Their hygiene is questionable — even the older ones. Sometimes especially the older ones.
They're also largely unaware of where it is their bodies begin and where they end, unaware of things like personal space and lacking in the ability to truly judge risk and their own abilities.
They make bad choices, and it's not entirely their fault.
Their prefrontal cortexes are still developing.
They're also emotional creatures, creatures who long for touch from their teachers when they're young, from their friends when they're older.
Again, this is not their faults. They're still developing.
Kids will ask teachers for hugs. Kids will hug their friends. Kids will sneeze on desks, and kids will shove dirty fingers in their mouths.
This is what it is to be a kid.
They will be unwitting carriers, toting a virus from home to school and back again, transmitting it to their teachers, to their bus drivers, to grandma and grandpa.
This is why teachers are scared.
This is why teachers don't want to “buck up.”
They've already seen the canary in the coal mine.
Kimberly Chavez Boyd, a 61-year-old veteran teacher at the Hayden Winkelman Unified School District in Arizona died in June from COVID-19. She was teaching virtually from the school building; there weren't even kids in her classroom. Two of her fellow teachers were also diagnosed and fought hard battles with the disease.
Nearly one third of America's teachers are 50 or older and considered at higher risk for COVID-19.
And they're not alone. School buildings are filled with adults — janitors, aides, office personnel, administrators, SROs, and many more — all vulnerable.
All being forced to make impossible choices and put their lives on the line because ours is a system that does not provide for our kids or for parents, that has made schools the only real support system for working parents and yet left them underfunded and overmandated.
Essential workers deserve all the gratitude of our nation.
But so do our terrified teachers.
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