Teachers are now complaining about having to go back and do what they profess to love: teach in a classroom.
While I have had some unfortunate experience with teachers unions in the past (as an observer, not a member), I was always convinced that the grievance from the professionals was based upon their desire to better the lives of and conditions for students. It really never occurred to me that someone who would enter one of the “service professions” would be hyper-focused on their own needs to the exclusion of their kids.
Sadly, that’s what I see happening these days as school districts are now announcing they will reopen in the fall.
It is reasonable that some of these adults are wary of being exposed to a virus that has not yet been tamed by science and which is still wreaking havoc in some parts of the country. I know that the uncertainties attached to this disease give one pause and provide significant challenges to reopening schools. And yes, I am fully aware that there is not enough money, time, or even initiative at the local level to guarantee a fool-proof, completely sanitized, thoroughly germ-free environment.
But by the same token, the only ones I see engaging in finger-pointing and “end-times” sort of rhetoric are teachers who do not want to return to the classroom and their supporters. I have seen on social media that virtually anyone who wants their child to return to the classroom in September is not only considered tantamount to a child abuser but also wants teachers to die. I do not need to reproduce the posts here, because they are legion and you can do your own research, but there is no question that those of us who think it is imperative that children get back to the business of normalcy, or at least near-normalcy, are considered anathema. Worse than that, we are selfish and — dare I say it? — supporters of President Donald Trump.
And that is what angers me most. When I was a French teacher, politics were irrelevant. That is likely because I taught in private schools and my specialty wasn’t all that controversial. But now, everything must be squeezed into the “pro-Trump” or “never-Trump” categories, with those of us who simply want to recapture the evanescent beauty of childhood for our kids turned into beastly creatures with a death wish.
I understand that politicians would engage in that sort of gamesmanship. I even get that some parents would do the same, having had my own battles with the sort of person who says, “I am paying your salary, I get to tell you what and how to teach.”
But I would have never expected that from members of a profession I always loved, admired, cherished, and held in the highest esteem. These men and women who are comparing a premature return to classrooms to a “death sentence” should speak to soldiers who have taken incoming fire on a foreign battlefield, EMT workers, emergency-room doctors, or the police officers who are on the front lines every day, including when we are not dealing with a pandemic.
I don’t mean to dismiss the real concerns of teachers who might feel particularly vulnerable to infection, including those who are older, have pre-existing conditions, or don’t want to expose vulnerable family members to what they perceive as a risk.
But that is not what we have been doing, because some people see this as just another opportunity to attack a president they despise or advance some agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with their own health or with the welfare of children. The nuns who taught me would have told these fainthearted professionals to act like adults, study the facts and charts, and dispense with the hysterics. The children are watching.
Months ago I wrote about the toll being taken on high school seniors who were losing out on all the important rites of passage, markers like graduation, parties, senior weeks, and final farewells. Many of the emails I received in response were sympathetic but also suggested it was necessary to do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Back then, I grudgingly agreed. Now, as I see teachers in particular (not all, but far too many) moving the chains and pushing back the goalposts, I am beginning to wonder if we even want to see the light at the end of this tunnel — or if it is in the best interest of some people to freeze us in a holding pattern indefinitely.
This cannot continue. Let’s be worthy of the trust children place in us and bring them back into a world they recognize, and deserve, before they become used to sitting in their bedrooms with absolutely no human contact.
Christa McAuliffe once said, “I touch the future; I teach.” It’s time some of these educators stopped living scared and anchored in the past.
Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.