The Call to Fall: Are You Ready for What Education May Look Like for Students? ~Amanda Allison, M.Ed.
It’s refreshing to hear that some schools are offering choice to parents. Unlike several weeks ago, schools are relenting on the former conviction that all schools will open for in-person learning. This was a difficult pill to swallow while in the middle of a pandemic. Both as an educator and a parent, I felt coerced into an uncomfortable choice: school or health. It is the stuff of debate in ethics classes. For many: this moral dilemma is stressful and clear choices seem muddied.
To Send or Not to Send? That is the Question:
Many are feeling trapped. When will this saga of chronic stress end? Every option has benefits and drawbacks. As we near the return to school this fall, anxiety seems to rise. With now certain answers and reopening plans that garner more questions than answers, many feel they are in a perpetual state of “fight or flight.” We need direction. We need choices. One option may seem ideal for one may not be ideal for another. As we approach reopening dates, many parents are more convicted in their stance. Some vehemently feel schools should reopen to get our economy back on track. After all, school is the “ideal” babysitting institution: meals, education, and play courtesy of your local taxpayers. Parents have to work. What better way to get back to a more “normal” workday than to send children off to school?
However, others are not willing to subject their children, teachers, and community members to a fate of illness or even death simply in the name of education. Many have decided to roll up their sleeves and educate their children safely at home in an effort to protect themselves and others. Unfortunately, not all school districts have offered the choice for homeschooling or remote learning. So parents are stuck in a state of perplexity and stagnancy. Do we fill out paperwork for homeschooling? Do we quit our jobs to do this? Do we elicit help from grandparents? Do we enroll our children in the online curriculum? Do we bite the bullet and just send them back and hope for the best? These questions and more are constantly mulled and many are in need of a directive they can hang their hat on.
Allowing Parents the Freedom to Choose:
Not everyone is going to come to the same decision for their children and families. This is personal. Arriving at a final decision will be fraught with many uncertainties, and it won’t be easy. This quandary can be made easier by allowing parents the choice to send their children to school, home school, or opt for remote learning. There are plenty of teachers who would volunteer for in-person or remote modalities. The choice needs to be offered.
Medical Conditions First is Not Fair:
Not all teachers have a documented medical condition that necessitates the need to provide remote learning. Some teachers and families are just worried about in-person instruction. This worry is justified as we know COVID 19 can adversely affect young and old, healthy and unhealthy. My wish is for ALL stakeholders involved to be heard and respected. No one should have to fear going back to work when other options are out there and should be made available. How effective will a teacher be when anxious and worried about their health or the health of family members while trying to put on a brave face and teach? Certainly not as effective as a teacher who is more relaxed, calm, and confident at the time of instruction.
Educators are NOT Level 4 Hazmat Personnel:
Even with proper protective measures in place, hospital workers have fallen ill and some have even died while all protocols were in place. We know this. Why would we subject students, teachers, and families to perform duties in a room filled with multiple people unaware of who may actually be carrying the virus? It sounds like the plot from an evil dinner party mystery. But, it is a reality now.
Many are asymptomatic. No fever present. But carriers can transmit the infection to others unknowingly. To assume all will be healthy while arriving at school is fool hearty. Teachers and students will very likely, due to the social nature of school itself, come into close contact with others. We know children act up with behaviors for many reasons and can put others around them at risk. If having lunch, children will be unmasked indoors while eating. Conducting instruction outdoors is simply not reasonable due to inclement weather and colder temperatures.
Teachers will have to be ever vigilant of surfaces and items touched and will be distracted by the need to clean and sanitize, keep 6 feet apart, keep kids in masks and keep all safe on top of delivering effective instruction. It was hard enough to keep kids engaged before the pandemic! Teachers, especially those of young children, are constantly pulled in many directions. Keeping one’s thoughts focused on the subject matter can be daunting. Never mind adding infection control measures into the scenario. We were schooled in how to instruct, not enforce, and maintain proper hospital-grade safety protocols.
Federal and local leaders need to be aware of what is being asked of teachers, students, and families during this time of crisis. All stakeholders need to weigh-in and make hard decisions to keep others safe. There are many effective and established online learning platforms. Offer choices to parents, students, and teachers. If safety is compromised or even the threat of safety is compromised, then offer an alternative that puts all at ease. Offer choices to home school, remote or in-person instruction to parents. Empower parents to make the right choice for their families.