When the pandemic hit in the Spring of 2020, teachers, parents, and students quickly adjusted to virtual learning. Teachers were hailed as heroes, and everyone seemed to agree that they weren’t appreciated, respected, or thanked enough. Now, as we are nearing the year mark of virtual learning, teachers have become the villains. And as parent frustration mounts in this pandemic, teachers are being bullied, and that is just unacceptable.
Navigating this pandemic has been exhausting, challenging, and unpredictable for everyone. Teachers have had to adjust their teaching to remote learning, hybrid models, and in-person socially distanced instruction. And some teachers are being asked to simultaneously teach in-person and online.
There have been little to no adjustments in mandated educational standards and limited training on new platforms. Teachers have planned and re-planned curriculums and figured out how to make lessons as engaging as possible under impossible conditions. And they have been trying their best to meet unrealistic expectations coming from all directions amid a worldwide crisis.
Educators are becoming the bad guys at a time when they are in dire need of support. Teachers are feeling the effects of increased workloads and declining job satisfaction. According to a Horace Mann Educators Corporation report, 77% of educators work more today than a year ago, and 60% enjoy their job less. And don’t forget a lot of these teachers are parents themselves and trying to juggle a full-time job and manage school for their kids just like many of us.
Moreover, teachers are concerned about declining engagement and connection with students. Most of them would much rather be in the classroom instead of teaching to a screen full of boxes. The technical issues alone are enough to make someone quit. Not to mention, many teachers spend their day teaching to a screen full of black boxes, especially at the high school and middle school level.
And yes, parents have every reason to be just as frustrated and overwhelmed as teachers. Many parents have been supporting their children in some form of virtual school or hybrid model since March. Parents are juggling work, trying to help kids keep up in school, and navigating all that comes with surviving this pandemic. And they have hit their limits.
Moms and dads have had to renegotiate their working schedules or figure out some kind of childcare arrangements so that they can work. And working moms have left the workforce at astronomical rates. Parents are justifiably worried about the academic, mental, and social effects not being in school full time is having on their kids. Never mind their own mental health.
Parents are stressing about the lack of in-person instruction and need somewhere to place the blame. And unfortunately, teachers seem to be on the receiving end of this wrath. Parents are bullying teachers across social media platforms, in the comment sections of news outlets, and even in their own virtual classrooms. Commenters are claiming teachers are lazy, don’t care about students, and are being selfish.
In some communities, parents are planning and participating in protests. Some want teachers fired and school taxes refunded to taxpayers. According to the Wall Street Journal, School district officials in Columbia, Missouri, claimed to need private security. They alleged that parents were showing up at school administrators and board members’ homes, screaming at them in public, and sharing personal addresses online.
A growing number of parents are placing the blame on teacher unions. And honestly, this is not entirely unfounded. Teacher unions have been one of the biggest roadblocks to major school districts reaching an agreement to return to in-person learning. But the problems are so much more nuanced than “lazy” teachers with political agendas refusing to prioritize students’ needs.
Teacher unions across the nation are fighting for teachers to have specific protocols to ensure teachers’ health and safety. Some of these protocols include teacher vaccinations, COVID 19 testing plans, in-school nurses, classroom ventilation assessments, and reduced class sizes. It’s fair for teachers ask for certain level of safety if they are being asked to expose themselves during a global pandemic. And expecting teachers to place their students above their own health and their families’ health is just outright selfish.
Everyone has had it with this pandemic, but bullying teachers is just misdirecting anger. They just happen to be an easy target to direct the anger we are experiencing in a very challenging time. But none of this is their fault, and they have very valid concerns. We can’t disregard that this is also a failure of administrations at the federal, state, and district levels. It also points out a shortage of funding, supplies, and staff that stand in the way of implementing safety protocols.
The debate about reopening schools has reached a fever pitch and is dividing communities across the country. Parents need their kids to go back to school full-time, and teachers need to feel they are being as protected as possible during a global pandemic. And both sides have very valid arguments. There is no perfect answer for this situation.
But bullying teachers is not going to make this easier for anyone or get anything resolved. The last thing we need to do as parents is create a “them vs. us” situation because teachers are our allies at the end of the day. So instead of bullying teachers in the middle of a pandemic, try putting yourself in their shoes and practicing a bit of empathy.