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Teachers Are Not Saviors of Our Nation During COVID19

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Teachers Are Not Saviors

COVID19 continues to change and affect our lives in many ways. The virus is prominent in almost every facet of our lives, including the public and private educational systems. Currently, the national debate about the virus is whether or not to reopen schools in August or September 2020. Educators are caught in a quagmire because they must choose between returning to school buildings or defiance. Politicians continue to huff and puff, “Children need to be in school!” Once again, the ask of teachers, administrators, and school staff is come to the rescue and clean up a mess created by others. This time the chaos is deadly! Teachers are human, not immortal. Most of all, teachers are not saviors of the nation.

We see that COVID19 has no boundaries and does not discriminate. Science and data show that infection rates cross a variety of ages, ethnic groups, and gender. Yes, the mortality rate is higher for people over 50 and in black and brown communities with underlying conditions. However, the virus is like a thief in the night, and it’s stealing lives before our eyes. Some of the persons include educators in public and private schools. Let’s take a look at statistics for teachers in the United States.

Teacher Data

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015-16, there were 3,827,000 public school teachers and 465,000 private school teachers. Almost 30% of public school teachers are over 50 years old. Teachers 40-49 years old represent 27.4%, 30-39 years old equals 28.5%, and under 30 is 15%. Seventy-six percent of teachers are female, and 23.4% are male. The data is for teachers and does not include additional school staff like aides, social workers, nurses, custodians, lunchroom workers, office staff, bus drivers, and security. Schools consist of many people working with students daily. 

Keeping students and school staff is paramount to reopening school during a pandemic.

Educators Face Societal Ills

Educators face many societal ills each day: homelessness, violence, substance abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, hunger, trauma, physical and emotional trauma. Then there is a list of risk factors that affect teaching and learning: community issues, unemployment, drugs, violence, generational poverty, cultural differences, lack of funding and resources, and even politics. Teachers put on their armor all the time. We save many children and, occasionally, parents. Now, along comes COVID19, and it is unlike anything we experienced. The expectation is to show up and do what we do best. Not this time, because teachers are not the saviors of the nation.

All educators will gladly say that we do not walk on water. Too many times, teachers pick up the torch to fix the damage caused by others. Whether it is a rural or urban school setting, educators must teach and be social workers, nurses, psychologists, and pseudo-parents to some students. School staff members try to be empathetic to all, but at times it is impossible. Each child’s situation is different. Teachers try to understand a student’s living situation to serve their needs better. Most times, the school is the hub of a community, and educators want to make it a safe zone. 

COVID Changes Educational Systems

COVID19 changes the way we will educate and what a typical school day looks like now. Many teachers feel left out of the planning process to reopen schools. Principals and teachers alike feel demeaned or disrespected by the Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos. During a CNN interview, despite the CDC Considerations to reopen schools, Devos brushes off coronavirus risks and wants to open schools regardless of risk. Some of Devos’s comments seem to blame teachers for online or remote learning being ineffective. Then Betsy Devos and the President threatened to take away federal funding if school districts do not reopen. Educators felt a slap in the face to their health and safety.

Kaiser Family Foundation Study

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that one out of four teachers is at risk of serious illness if infected by a coronavirus. An article from CNN reports, “Teachers and instructors, about 24% of the total, suffer from health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity, or older than 65. It makes them more vulnerable.” Educators are human, not immortal. Teachers are not saviors of our nation.

The article continues to say, “The share of teachers at high risk based on criteria identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the same as for workers overall, Kaiser said. Schools face the challenge of high traffic and tight quarters, which could make social distancing difficult.”

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Education, An Essential Institution

Schools are places of importance in our country. Education is an essential social institution; consequently, it plays a crucial role in our society. Training and education help shape the citizenry’s opinions, beliefs, thinking, and skills. Many believe education is the most critical thing in the world. Teachers, administrators, and school staff members don’t disagree with the significance of reopening schools. With rising coronavirus cases, educators do not want their opinions overlooked by politicians and persons making decisions.  

A Heavy Burden On Teachers

Educators always have the best interests of the students in mind. They recognize that parents need to get back to work, and children need socialization and daily routines. Many politicians want to resurrect the economy more than anything else. They pontificate the economy cannot improve unless schools reopen. Furthermore, they spout off statistics and infection rates of children. Yet, those rates of infection are increasing. At what cost should teachers risk their own lives? All school staff members want to return to work, but they have their health and families to keep safe. Do not put the heavy burden of the coronavirus on the backs of educators! Educators, stand up and be heard. Your lives depend on using your voices.

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Stamp Out Racism in Classrooms

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Stamp Out Racism

I recently saw a video on Twitter of a woman screaming at the top of her lungs, “I will teach my grandchildren to hate all of you!” She was wrapped in a confederate flag and was yelling at a group of mostly Black and peaceful protesters holding Black Lives Matters signs. As a human being, I was disgusted at the woman’s words and hate. Then I thought the teachers of her grandchildren would have to undo the damage of the racism and hatred instilled into them at an early age. Imagine something so deep-seated coming into the sanctity of space for teaching and learning. Once it enters, how do you stamp out the racism in classrooms?

Hate and racism are equal opportunists, and both cross many lines between cultural and ethnic groups. People of all races have racist moments. To display hatred or racism is inherently wrong and demonstrates one of the worst human flaws. Racism is deeply entrenched in the United States and not easily fixed. It is a social ill of the worst kind. Somehow, teachers have become the de facto fixers of social ills. It is not what teachers train to do, but it often falls into our laps. While we cannot fix all of the world’s burdens, we can try to make things better. In this post, we will explore some things we can do to stamp out racism in classrooms.

Internal and Interpersonal

First, let’s talk about two types of racism you may see displayed in classrooms. You may witness internal racism. It is basically who you are and what you believe. Then there is interpersonal racism. It is how you interact or do not interact. More complex types of racism exist, but we will focus on internal and interpersonal in this post. Also, we will focus on how to teach our children not to harbor racism and hate.

While we look at ways to stamp out racism in classrooms, here are a few other ways it may appear in schools. Racism exists in textbooks, novels, curricular activities, behavior management, discipline, and school funding. These may not be at the forefront of your mind, but all have adverse effects on teaching and learning.

TTT4U is one of the Top 100 Education Blogs in 2020. Check out the list.
https://blog.feedspot.com/top-50-education-blogs-for-educators-and-teachers/

In your classroom, most likely, racist behavior will be internal and interpersonal. Most importantly is when you witness racism, make it clear the behavior is unacceptable. Also, every teacher must model the conduct and habits that you expect. Furthermore, stop for a moment and reflect on your own beliefs and attitudes about race. Look at the students sitting in front of you. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

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Reflective Questions

How do you treat students of color in your classroom? Think about how you speak or respond to Black, Latino, or Asian children. Do you discipline them more harshly than White students? Are most of your behavior referrals for Black or Latino students?  What are your academic expectations for the non-White students? How do you communicate with parents of color? Write down the answers to these questions. Next, challenge yourself to make changes as needed.

Classroom Environment

Now let’s look at some tips to help stamp out racism in classrooms. You are starting with the classroom environment. Walk around and observe classroom posters, pictures, textbooks and classroom library books, music, and other materials. Do these items reflect the diverse races, ethnicities, gender, and age group of the students? If you do not have varied representations in the classroom, you need to make changes to the environment. Children need to see themselves represented in the resources and materials. Check with the principal to see if funds exist to purchase new materials.

Use Unbiased Language

Another tip is to make an effort to use unbiased language. Your words must be inclusive and not divisive. Sometimes the way we speak to our students is unintentional but pays close attention to what you say to students. Compliment students equally about appearance and achievement. Find a way to encourage all students.

Answer Students’ Questions

If students have questions about discrimination, prejudices, and racism, answer their questions. Do not sidestep or change the topic. Children are curious, perceptive, and intelligent. Use it as a teachable moment and make time for student-to-student discussions. When questions arise, it is a perfect time to facilitate and discuss racial and cultural differences. It is also an excellent time to review how harmful racism is to people and the country. It is not time to pretend not to see differences in race or culture. Acknowledge the students’ observation and explain not to put negative judgments on the differences.

Stamp out racism
Anti-racism must become a cause we work towards each day. Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash.com

Communicate With Parents

Inform parents of the discussions and any possible projects. You may have some parents who do not want their children to discuss racism. Be very specific to describe what types of questions students asked. Also, explain the answers you gave or will give based on the students’ questions. Ask parents if they have any objections because you do not want children to have mixed messages. Perhaps, parents will reinforce the discussion at home with their children. 

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Learned Behavior

At some point, you will have to deal with racist behavior. Do not ignore it! Avoiding racism will not make it disappear. Silence is not golden when you observe a racist act. Your silence can be interpreted as approval; therefore, send a clear message that racism is not tolerated. Explain why the action is not appropriate. 

Remember, the racist act by a student is learned behavior. This type of action does not disappear immediately. It must be unlearned over time. You have to try to undo what the child learns at home or in the community. It is not easy to repair the damage. Also, do not disgrace or embarrass the student who commits the racist act. Talk to the student to identify where the problem exists and how to refrain from having future or similar episodes. 

Teaching Empathy

Throughout the school year, teach lessons of empathy. Students can be taught empathy through activities involving role-playing, town-hall meetings, peace circles, and collaborative projects. Do not forget to reflect on your level of empathy. You may need some lessons, too. Remember, everyone is a work in progress, but teachers are role models. Teachers must demonstrate the acceptable behavior and expectations of their students. 

Anti-Racism is a Cause

To stamp out racism in classrooms is not an easy task or burden. Yes, your job is very stressful. Nevertheless, teachers, we are on the frontline of the battle. It is not a chore that we desire; however, we must be a catalyst for change. Anti-racism must become a cause we work towards each day. If it becomes a cause, we can guarantee all of our students an equal opportunity to live and work in a better world.

Additional Resources

Is My School Racist? https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/fall-2013/is-my-school-racist

Teaching Tolerance www.teachingtolerance.org

How Racism Affects Public School Minorities

https://www.thoughtco.com/how-racism-affects-public-school-minorities-4025361

TTT4U is listed in the Top 100 Education Blogs in 2020. Check out the list.
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Educators, Admit That We’re Not Okay

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Throw Off the Masks

Historically, teachers and administrators must show strength and bravery during tumultuous times. We tell ourselves that we must be strong for our students because the children need us. We must be a strong tower to lean on and very composed for all to see. Yet, some of us are falling apart inside and out. Today, let’s throw off the masks. Educators, admit that we’re not okay!

The year 2020 is half over, and it’s a bumpy ride. The year began like any other, and then COVID19 hit our nation and the world. We were not prepared for a pandemic. Schools closed without knowing that we would not return for the remainder of the year. Teachers and administrators had to shift gears in every area of education. 

Remote Learning Didn’t Work

A recent Wall Street Journal article, The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work, states the pandemic forced schools into a crash course in online education. Teachers are used to planning and preparing. COVID19 did not give us time to do so. Suddenly, students were sent home, and instantly, e-learning became a thing. Educators were thrown into a whirlwind. Districts quickly put together some guidelines to follow, but everything was haphazard. No one was ready for what hit us. 

Students and parents were not prepared either for remote learning. Many students do not have access to the technology needed for e-learning. Districts tried to provide computers for students in need. Also, some students and parents do not have access to WiFi. Yes, companies offered access at a reduced rate, but some parents could not afford another bill. Everyone is stressed!

Educators feel the effects of societal ills, too. Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.com
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Communication is a Priority

Teaching is a profession where communicating with students and parents is a priority. When classes are in person, seeing and speaking to your students is an everyday thing. We are on the frontlines like first responders. As educators, we develop relationships with the children and learn their nuances, triggers, likes, and dislikes. We can look in their faces or eyes and know when they are happy, sad, angry, or scared. Our students know our moods, and we know theirs. E-learning takes away a certain amount of humanity. The computer screen can hide emotions and signs of distress in the children we teach. So, to add on to the stress, we now have worry, too. 

We worry for the students who were already on edge or have social-emotional issues. Schools are often a safe haven for children who live in unstable homes where physical or emotional abuse is present. Teachers and administrators also agonize for the families during the COVID pandemic. In schools with a majority of low-income families, parents are at risk of unemployment and financial calamity. We are anxious that our students are hungry and possibly homeless if their parents cannot afford to pay the rent. 

More than a Pandemic

Yet, educators are supposed to appear to be strong despite our anxieties. Again, we mask our feelings instead of admitting that we are not okay. Many teachers can tell you that they have lost track of some students. Despite calling emergency contacts and several phone numbers, a large percentage of children are lost in the system of remote learning. During a typical school year, we can make home visits and knock on doors. However, the pandemic has us on lockdown. When we cannot locate a student, it is a significant stressor. We care about the well-being of the children and their families.  

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Just as COVID19 threw us all out of whack, the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer lit a fire across the United States. Peaceful, protesters, rioters, and looters took to the streets in major cities. Neighborhoods and communities took massive hits of destruction. Buildings, stores, pharmacies, and more no longer exists in areas that were already barely existing. Now, our students had to witness a mix of peaceful protests, violence, and destruction. They also witnessed the explosion of anger and trauma like the combustion of emotions. Plus, the children don’t have the school building as a safe haven anymore. Again, we are unable to reach out to comfort our students during the turmoil. It’s too many unknowns for us to handle.

We Are Not Okay

Educators, let’s admit that we’re not okay! Why are we expected to be fine? How do we deal with much heartache, burdens of the pandemic, and the societal ills that affect our students? These issues are traumatic for us, too. Why are we expected to be experts at e-learning at the drop of a dime? No one was prepared for remote learning to be the only source of teaching for months. How do we deal with the expectations that educators must weather any storm, no matter how devastating?  

Teachers and administrators, let’s begin with admitting that we’re not okay and just as fragile as any other humans. We are hurting, too. It is okay to cry, shout, and be vulnerable. If you need to seek support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor, colleague, or family member. The last thing you want to do is hold in your emotions and become overwhelmed with distress. Your worries and concerns need to be heard, too. Admit that you are not okay and take the time to heal.

Resources

https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-coronavirus-remote-learning-lockdown-tech-11591375078