40 votes

Teachers are ready to quit rather than put their lives at risk: "Most parents have no idea how bad this is going to be"

14 comments

  1. [11]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    This is probably going to be my last comment on Tildes regarding this topic for a while, as my anxiety is clearly spiking and I don't think I'm processing it in a healthy way right now, as...

    This is probably going to be my last comment on Tildes regarding this topic for a while, as my anxiety is clearly spiking and I don't think I'm processing it in a healthy way right now, as evidenced by my other comments here.

    I think my response, and the response of many other American teachers to re-opening, is rooted in a deep-seated and, honestly, well-deserved pessimism. Ultimately, we simply don't trust educational institutions to do right by us. We know the system is broken but we smooth over its issues because that's what's best for the kids. We go above and beyond for a system that turns around and demonizes us for our efforts. We don't get what we need to do the bare minimum for our jobs, but we pay for that ourselves because otherwise the kids suffer. Education as an institution willfully doles out slack because it knows teachers will pick it up, for the kids, for ourselves.

    I genuinely want people to understand this concept and how it feels. I want people to hear me and say "oh damn, I get it now" instead of "oh god, another fucking WHINEY teacher", but I get that it's abstract and tough to arrive at from an outside perspective, so I'll try to tell a story that captures it.

    Here's the story: in my first year of teaching, I went to a department store one weekend and they had just started to put school supplies on clearance. While I was there (buying stuff for my classroom of course), I encountered another teacher from my district who I had met at our district's inservice. The teacher had two shopping carts lined up, back to back, and was shoveling stacks of loose-leaf paper into both of them.

    We said hi to one another and I, curious about what was going on, asked her what she was doing. Delightedly, she pointed to the clearance tag on the shelf and said "it's only ten cents a pack, can you believe it?!"

    I noted that it was great value, but did she really need two carts' worth?

    "Oh, this isn't all for me", she told me. She explained that she had texted some other teachers about the deal and they all wanted her to stock up for them too.

    She was buying loose-leaf paper, the most basic of school supplies, in vast quantities to supply her and her fellow staff members because her school was clearly deficient. I can also all but guarantee you that she didn't get reimbursed for this.

    At the time I remember being a little put-off because it seemed like overkill. Do you really need that much paper? Really? And does your school really not have any? Really?

    That skepticism was because I was brand new. I hadn't reason enough to be pessimistic yet, but I'd learn.

    The next year at my school my principal announced that we did not have enough money in the budget for sufficient copier paper. Teachers were rationed to a single ream per month. This was before computers were widely available in classrooms (and even if they were there's no way we would have afforded them), so nearly everything we did was on paper. I was allotted 500 pages for 160 students for ~20 days of learning.

    So, I found myself, like that teacher from the year before, filling up carts with paper. Across the course of the year the boxes of paper I bought would have filled far more than two carts, especially because, like her, I shared with colleagues. How could I not? "Hey, I heard you got paper!" was a common greeting for me in the teacher's lounge. What had seemed ridiculous to me the year before was now my reality.

    The next year, at the same school, we spent part of our inservice filling out DonorsChoose grants at the behest of our principal. He genuinely wanted his staff to have things they needed and knew that there wasn't any money for that, so this was his solution: begging for it.

    To those not familiar with DonorsChoose, it's crowdfunding for education. Teachers post desired supplies for their classrooms and people can donate to those projects and fulfill the requests. The organization started in 2000 and has since funded 1.7 million projects and has reached at least 84% of American schools.

    Teachers in EIGHTY FOUR PERCENT of schools in America have turned to crowdfunding for classroom supplies. Please let that sink in.

    Also, please take a look at the following searches, which display only currently-running, not yet funded requests:

    Each one turns up hundreds of teachers who are requesting those for their classrooms.

    It is July. Most schools aren't open yet. Many haven't even made formal decisions about reopening yet. And hundreds of our teachers have already turned to crowdfunding basic supplies to keep them and their students safe. In the middle of a global pandemic. It's a damning vote of no confidence against our school system. And this says nothing of the teachers, like me, who have simply bought those supplies for ourselves, out of pocket. I have a shipment of masks on the way to my home right now. I have boxes of hand sanitizer waiting in one of my online carts.

    I could be wrong, and I could get what I need. I'm in a much better (i.e. more well-funded) district than where I started, so there's actually a good chance that I will get those and my purchases will have been for naught, but reopening schools isn't about me in particular but about our institution as a whole, and from the outside it is difficult to understand just how embedded teachers' pessimism is with regards to that. It's not that I shouldn't have to buy hand sanitizer myself but that I shouldn't even feel the pressing need to do so in the first place, yet I and hundreds like me do. We don't trust that we'll be afforded the bare minimum. We don't trust that our students will be afforded the bare minimum. We don't even bother to ask most of the time because we know it's a foregone conclusion. Instead, we just buy it ourselves or ask the internet to help. 84% of us. 1.7 million times.

    The system's message about our value, that we work under day in and day out, couldn't be more clear: go fund yourself.

    This is why we're scared. We have every reason to be.

    53 votes
    1. [2]
      whisper
      Link Parent
      You should shop this as an essay to a major publication. Your writing is compelling, and it's the sort of writing that enlightens people. If you got this in front of several million people, it...

      You should shop this as an essay to a major publication. Your writing is compelling, and it's the sort of writing that enlightens people. If you got this in front of several million people, it could help sway opinions.

      21 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Thank you for this. I don't know the first thing about getting an edit of this more widely published, but you inspired me to use my voice on a more local level and I've been having very productive...

        Thank you for this. I don't know the first thing about getting an edit of this more widely published, but you inspired me to use my voice on a more local level and I've been having very productive conversations with members of my school's reopening committee as well as union representation.

        12 votes
    2. [2]
      moonbathers
      Link Parent
      I just wanted to say that the way you feel is completely understanding. I'm familiar with what you say about teachers having it really rough and I don't blame you at all for whatever you decide to...

      I just wanted to say that the way you feel is completely understanding. I'm familiar with what you say about teachers having it really rough and I don't blame you at all for whatever you decide to do to take care of yourself. ♥

      15 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Thanks for the support, moonbathers! It means a lot to me.

        Thanks for the support, moonbathers! It means a lot to me.

        4 votes
    3. [5]
      arghdos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      My mom was a teacher for the last twenty years (thank whatever diety she was scheduled to retire this summer). I will never think “oh just another whiney teacher”. Personally, I think the time...

      I want people to hear me and say "oh damn, I get it now" instead of "oh god, another fucking WHINEY teacher", but I get that it's abstract and tough to arrive at from an outside perspective, so I'll try to tell a story that captures it.

      My mom was a teacher for the last twenty years (thank whatever diety she was scheduled to retire this summer). I will never think “oh just another whiney teacher”. Personally, I think the time might never be better for a nationwide teacher strike. Demand what you need to be safe, and get paid what you deserve. It’s time America realized the value of all those services we refuse to invest in.

      14 votes
      1. [3]
        Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        My dad is a 5th grade teacher. One of the district’s ideas was to not require or even request that the students wear masks. I cannot understand the line of reasoning that could attempt to justify...

        My dad is a 5th grade teacher. One of the district’s ideas was to not require or even request that the students wear masks. I cannot understand the line of reasoning that could attempt to justify this idea. I’ll give another thumbs up for a nationwide teacher strike.

        12 votes
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          I've heard this idea proposed as well. There's actually a pretty pervasive belief that kids can't catch or spread it (which isn't true) which is where that may be coming from. It could also be the...

          I've heard this idea proposed as well.

          There's actually a pretty pervasive belief that kids can't catch or spread it (which isn't true) which is where that may be coming from. It could also be the district not wanting to be on the hook to provide them, or it could be that they are tacitly acknowledging that the likelihood of a child keeping their mask on for six hours straight is all but nil, so why not just give into that outcome and not require it in the first place?

          Regardless of the reason, I think unmasked students is asking for disaster in an already disastrous situation. I sincerely hope that your father's district develops a much safer plan than that.

          6 votes
          1. Weldawadyathink
            Link Parent
            Thanks for the response. It looks like the plan now is for indefinite distance learning, but, like all plans in the time of coronavirus, who knows if it will last. I think the original unmasked...

            Thanks for the response. It looks like the plan now is for indefinite distance learning, but, like all plans in the time of coronavirus, who knows if it will last. I think the original unmasked kids idea had something to do with not being legally allowed to require masks under a certain age, but that info came through 3 or 4 stages of telephone before I got it. At least the district seems to be doing the right thing now.

            2 votes
      2. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Congrats to your mom on her retirement! Anyone retiring from teaching has my utmost respect and admiration, and the fact that she got out when she did means she and you can rest easy knowing that...

        Congrats to your mom on her retirement! Anyone retiring from teaching has my utmost respect and admiration, and the fact that she got out when she did means she and you can rest easy knowing that she's safe. I'm very happy for her!

        3 votes
    4. rogue_cricket
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I am so frustrated on your behalf, and so sorry that you have to deal with this mess. It's clear to me that you are a person who is absolutely a benefit to your community and to your country and...

      I am so frustrated on your behalf, and so sorry that you have to deal with this mess. It's clear to me that you are a person who is absolutely a benefit to your community and to your country and instead of being rewarded, you are being treated like garbage. You are being asked to sacrifice so much for a government that clearly values the short-term "economy" (which may as well be the "rich people feelings graph") and partisan political optics over your safety, your life, and the reality of the important work you do in education.

      There are huge, gaping cracks in the education system left by the government, and I get the feeling that if teachers didn't take it upon themselves to go above and beyond to try and patch these holes, the whole system would fall over. This should not be your responsibility and it is unconscionable that it falls to you and your colleagues.

      This reads to me almost like being in an abusive relationship that stays together "for the kids".

      6 votes
  2. [2]
    Gaywallet
    Link
    Hopefully this will apply some pressure on the government to realize this is a bad idea. We cannot simply re-open and go for a business as usual approach. If people want in person schooling, we...

    Hopefully this will apply some pressure on the government to realize this is a bad idea. We cannot simply re-open and go for a business as usual approach. If people want in person schooling, we need to drastically re-imagine what it means to go to school and what kind of supplies we are offering the schools for both the teachers and children. While we're at it, we should probably start paying teachers more.

    This is going to be quite expensive. Perhaps we can redirect funding from areas which are not as necessary right now such as the police and military budgets. Don't want to defund? Then lets re-purpose some of the existing manpower we have - classes are already bloated, how about we start using reserve troops as teacher's assistants? Surely there's some educators within the military we can utilize. Furthermore, how about we fund this from the rich who have the means to self-educate?

    I think it's entirely fair for teachers to be willing to quit. We're asking for them to put their lives in danger because we are unwilling to compromise on a system which has been systematically defunded for years for other priorities. If the government is willing to take money from education and put it elsewhere, this is a signal from the government that this isn't important. If people think it's important, it's time to start putting pressure on the government to prioritize it.

    The article captures this idea quite well:

    The crisis over when and how to reopen schools underscores a central contradiction in American society: It can’t function without the public school system, which doesn’t have the funding and resources to follow the basic health and safety guidelines that would make reopening schools during a global pandemic feasible.

    13 votes
    1. Loire
      Link Parent
      Nothing in the past four years has indicated that this administration makes decisions based on logical decision making. Donald Trump is forcing schools open as a political ploy. He isn't doing it...

      Hopefully this will apply some pressure on the government to realize this is a bad idea.

      Nothing in the past four years has indicated that this administration makes decisions based on logical decision making.

      Donald Trump is forcing schools open as a political ploy. He isn't doing it because he thinks it's the best thing for the country, or the best thing for the kids. He is doing it because he thinks it's the best thing for his re-election chances. I don't know if teachers quitting will stop that.

      21 votes
  3. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    It’s crazy how so many things in this country are so bad, and yet we’re not at a breaking point. I’m sure things will have to get worse before people in power are forced to make a change.

    It’s crazy how so many things in this country are so bad, and yet we’re not at a breaking point. I’m sure things will have to get worse before people in power are forced to make a change.

    10 votes