This week, I was invited to join a new, local Facebook group. Curious, I clicked on the invite. The group was formed to go against the public school district and make demands of them in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Parents were advocating that there was no good reason for all kids not to be back in school full-time with regular, pre-pandemic school hours. There was also a fair smattering of liberal-bashing memes, cherry-picked virus statistics, and articles from the local newspaper.
I immediately declined the invitation after reading just a few posts that were flooded with ranting comments. I just don’t have it in me. You see, many of my friends and family members are teachers, and they are beyond burned out. (Yes, we still have three months of this school year to go.) Right now, they aren’t dealing with middle-of-winter, typical teacher burnout. Rather, parents are driving teachers to the brink of a breakdown. There was no way I’d be joining a group that was making more demands of our educators. My view is that parents need to lay off, not armor up.
The pandemic has absolutely brought the problematic gaps in our education system to light. Privileged parents of privileged kids are finally noticing what others have known all along. There are major issues in the American education system. This is in no way an attack on our educators, who, like us, are at the whims of higher-ups who make top-down decisions. However, I strongly feel, based on what my teacher-friends and family are saying, that this is not the time to attack, complain, or demand.
I’ll never forget when a family member joked (funny, not funny) that because I was a teacher, I had the ideal schedule. After all, I had summers, weekends, evenings, and holidays off work. I literally laughed out loud when they said this to me. The reality is, even as a college teacher, I worked even more over the summer—planning for the upcoming semesters and new classes I was assigned. Evenings? I spent almost every evening grading, gathering materials, emailing fellow teachers, and responding to student questions. Weekends were the same. There weren’t any off days. If we happened to have a three-day weekend, I was working. This was several years ago. Now our teachers aren’t just working around the clock, but around the clock while wearing masks, distancing, and trying to appease parents who are more demanding — and more abusive — than ever before.
“All of a sudden we are lazy. We just want to stay at home all day and we don’t know what is good for children,” 26-year teaching veteran Marjorie Soffer told Today.com. “I do agree — children do better at school. But there was a valid concern about the number of cases and how we could be socially distanced. Yet, we were vilified.”
Right now teachers are trying to navigate the constant scheduling changes, pandemic guidelines, and on top of it all, many are having to help their own kids with school. One of my friends had a principal who refused to let her work from home, because she couldn’t then micro-manage and be certain her teachers were doing what they were supposed to. A week later, my friend, who has followed all the CDC guidelines, tested positive for COVID-19 and spent the next three weeks sick and recovering at home. She confessed to me that her only exposure was being at school, forced to sit in close-quarter meetings with other teachers. Meanwhile, the parental email complaints flooded her inbox. Her high school seniors’ parents, in particular, wanted to know how she was making sure the kids were prepared to graduate and move on to college.
One of my children’s own teachers, who was teaching remote from her classroom at the school, had to stay home for three weeks. One of her children was exposed to the virus at his preschool. Then her daughter tested positive. Each exposure or positive test meant more days in quarantine. The whole time, this teacher was helping her four kids learn from home while the teacher taught thirty remote students from home. Oh, and the teacher, she’s married to a teacher.
Meanwhile, entitled parents demand to know how the teachers are going to help kids “catch up” and not “fall behind.” They want to know how dare their precious child have a C in math instead of their usual A. What about socialization and extracurriculars? Several of my friends, who are not teachers, are complaining that their kids aren’t receiving enough video instruction and they’ve had to (gasp) supplement curriculum themselves to ensure their children’s academic wellbeing. (Gag.)
Instead of ranting and raving against teachers, when the real problem is this damn virus, why not buy your child’s teacher a gift card so they can get themselves a much-needed coffee or lunch? How about ask the teacher if some students don’t have the technology they need to remote learn and organize a campaign to help those students?
Volunteer to use your spare time (you know, the time you were using to complain on social media) to work with the school cafeteria staff to assemble meals to handout to low-income children who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to eat for breakfast or lunch. Use your keyboard courage to instead send an email to your child’s principal praising your child’s teacher.
Teachers did not ask for this pandemic, and they are suffering right alongside the rest of us—yet even more. They are in charge of dozens of students, not just the few living in their homes. I have yet to know a teacher who doesn’t work their ass off for their students, and not just academically speaking. The teachers I’m fortunate enough to call friend care about the student’s physical, mental, and emotional health, too. There’s really nothing a good teacher won’t do for their students.
I fear that as we continue to work our way through the pandemic and eventually come out of it, we will see many great teachers leaving the field, having reached their max capacity. There’s only so much pressure and hatred they can take. Yes, teachers are superhuman superheroes, but they have feelings, too. By constantly raising our objections, we are going to force our fragile educational system to completely crash and burn.
Parents, we need to chill out. If a school issue isn’t absolutely urgent, we need to let it go or address it calmly and respectfully. We certainly shouldn’t be using our time or energy to leave yet another criticism in the suggestion box. Being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and it’s been made even more difficult because of the pandemic. It’s time to realize that we’re all collectively in a hot mess, and we need to band together by supporting our educators and thus, our children.