Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Teachers Need Consideration, Too

From the beginning of the pandemic educators have been hearing a constant message that we need to be extra patient with our students, to be careful of workload, and to generally go out of our way to be even more understanding than usual when they are unable to complete their work.

And you know what? I 100% agree with this. I tried to have all this in mind in the Before Times, but I have taken it even more to heart in the last year. I have reduced the work I assign, willing to lose coverage to benefit my students' mental health. I have been less stingy in handing out good grades and a softer touch with suboptimal student work. Right now there are much bigger fish to fry than holding the line between a B+ and A-.

However, educators do not seem to be getting the same consideration. Teaching in a pandemic is inherently much harder, at least if you want your teaching to be good. It requires converting every single lesson into a new format, arranging all of the electronic platforms, and teaching over Zoom, which is like swimming with a twenty pound weight attached to your ankle. Teaching hybrid might give needed actual contact with students, but it is physically and mentally exhausting to be in real space and cyberspace simultaneously. 

I regularly pass out on the couch at the end of the day. I typically work 10-11 hour days during the week, with a few hours of work on the weekend, too. I am starting to see my own children wear out and struggle in virtual school, but by the time I am able to help them with their studies I have spent all of my energy. 

My family is doing all of this with an almost impossible hill to climb. While my children's school remains virtual and I go in twice a week to mine, my wife has to come in five days a week. You try to figure that out. Teacher-parents have basically been told to go jump in a lake by just about everyone. No government subsidies for child care, no coordination between school districts, no child care assistance from our employers. 

On top of all of this teachers are still going through the same evaluation process from their schools. They still have the same load of meetings. (How else will administrators be able to justify their existence, after all?) Sometimes they even get browbeaten for not talking more in meetings at the end of a ten hour day spent teaching over Zoom and juggling child care responsibilities. 

Our reward for all this work is going to be layoffs, pay cuts, and resentment from the public. The attacks on teachers unions are already back and you can't wade into a conversation about school reopenings without somebody shitting all over teachers. I personally think the science on the safety of re-opening is pretty clear but I won't join with local people trying to reopen the schools here because I am not going to make common cause with those who wish to destroy my family's livelihood. It's bad enough to be doing all this extra work in trying circumstances, being treated with contempt as a result is unbearable. 

So please, give us a break before we break. 

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