How Are American Teachers Doing, Really? | #Education

Imagine you’ve got a business, housed in the basement of a single building. A tremendous storm sweeps in, and the basement floods—standing water, four inches deep. Some workers are asked to stay at their station, working ankle deep in water. Others are moved to the first floor, forced to use unfamiliar equipment that they must learn to use on the fly while trying to do something that is kind of, but not really, like their usual work. Nobody knows when the storm is going to end, or when the basement will be pumped dry.

You would think that upper levels of management might send someone in to check up on the workers. To see how they’re doing, what problems they’re encountering, maybe even ask what can be done to help or hire extra people to deal with the extra work the chaos creates.

You would think.

But in the pandemic storm of U.S. education right now, that’s mostly not what’s happening. Across the nation, we have next to no data about how things are working, about how teachers and students are holding up, about what resources schools need.

So mostly we have stories and anecdotes..

I’ve heard plenty of stories. The teacher who went to the grocery store after work and walked up and down each aisle crying. The teacher who had a six-year-old take her computer with her when she went to the bathroom. The teachers who get locked out of their own zoom class. The teachers trying to manage their students and their own children, packed around a battery of ill-connected computers at home. The “I’m at the end of my rope” essay has become a whole sub-genre of teacher writing.

And the memes.

“Admin in 2020: Please be prepared to teach online, in person, both simultaneously, on a moving train, while juggling, in a burning building, under the sea, during a wrestling match with a T Rex, as a hologram, and riding a unicorn. Also be safe and we value you.”

It’s not all bad. There are students who actually adapting well to on-line school, and teachers who are finding connections via text that they hadn’t made face to face. The Washington Post gathered teaching tales from nine teachers, and some are quite encouraging. But it’s a very mixed bag; on the one hand, early data is suggesting that schools are not super-spreaders, but on the other hand, being a regular spreader is plenty scary—and fatal—for some people. Meanwhile, teachers continue to adapt to virtual school, working things out mostly on their own.

What seems very wearing for a large number of teachers is the lack of support—doubly wearing because none of it is unexpected. We knew that pandemic schooling would be very expensive, but few additional resources have been forthcoming. We knew staffing would need to be expanded, but mostly it has not been. We knew that pandemic schooling would create whole new kinds of problems, but teachers have been left to solve those issues themselves. We knew that district leaders who had failed to build and maintain trust with their staffs would have extra trouble. We feared that too many teachers would be tossed into this storm and left to sort things out on their own, and in too many districts, that has come true. Disempowering teachers while offering a thin dose of toxic positivity doesn’t help. And through it all, far too many states and districts stick with the old top-down management model, failing to include teacher voices or insights in the crafting of policies, and in some cases deliberately silencing teachers who try to ask, “But what about—?” None of this is a surprise to classroom teachers, but it’s still discouraging.

Across the nation, a thousand odd contingencies have emerged, none of them planned for. Who’s responsible for reporting a child’s exposure, and how many degrees of exposure call for isolation? Parents have been more than willing to send symptomatic students to school. There are districts that forbid teachers to get a Covid test, because a test means automatic two-day isolation. Florida’s governor has forbidden the reporting of school Covid stats, and some schools have defied his order. In other districts, teachers are scolded for posting data from their school. In other districts, teachers are scolded if they try to provide more substantial classroom barriers. And some districts are delivering ultimatums to teachers—show up and risk exposure, take unpaid leave, or lose your job.

In some states, there are only a handful of rules, and they are not always examples of sensible consistency. Others offer “guidelines” only. In many schools, nobody knows what the rules are, exactly, or whose job it is to make sure they’re followed. And on the federal level, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has offered little but criticism and complaint about the “massive deficiencies” of public schools while continuing to argue that this is the time to implement her preferred private school voucher program (though charter and private schools enjoy no special immunity).

It can seem as if, faced with this massive challenge, the nation’s leaders mostly shrugged their shoulders and said, “Teachers and parents will work it out.” Of course, we don’t know exactly what’s happening because nobody is collecting the data, but then, that neglect speaks to the larger issue.

Somewhere in the midst of this are teachers, and they just want to teach. But for a field in which there has never been enough time, now there is really, really not enough time, plus a host of new and poorly defined threats to worry about. Many sources are promoting self care, itself a two-edged sword; the message starts with, “We know you need some extra care right now,” but the rest of the message is, “You’re on your own for getting it.”

Teachers are certainly not the only essential workers being hammered by the pandemic, and like those other folks, teachers are mostly sucking it up and carrying on. But the water is rising, the storm is raging, and there’s no sign that the weather is clearing any time soon, and nobody from the main office is stopping by to ask, “What can we do to help you?”

Source link