It has been over two years since the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What started in March of 2020 as a two-week pause quickly turned into the closing of schools and many aspects of our lives for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, and for many more, continued closures through much of the 2020-2021 school year. As we have passed the two-year mark, the world is done. We are fed up with closures. We are fed up with masking. We are fed up with limited supply chains. We are fed up with shortages of workers that are plaguing restaurants, stores, and more. And when I say we, I mean everybody. Nobody wants this to continue. This transcends urban and rural, political affiliation, etc. We all want to world to return to some sort of a sense of normalcy. However, the frustrations of a few are starting to rear their ugly head on society as a whole and it is counterproductive and discouraging to everyone that is simply trying their best to get through each day. So that being said, here are a few observations that I have made recently.
1. A few weeks ago, with the surge in COVID cases due to the Omicron variant, many schools were shut down again in an attempt to mitigate the number of people absent from school. This caused families last-minute grief in attempts to secure childcare, services for students that would receive them at school, and much more. Understandably, people were frustrated and fearful that another long-term closure was going to follow and for the most part, did not happen as cases have subsided. However, please understand that these temporary closures were out of an abundance of caution and frankly, because schools did not, and do not, have the personnel to keep schools open. On one day at my school back in January, we had FORTY teachers out due to illness. On top of that, hundreds of students were absent from school for the same reason. Subs were and still are essentially non-existent, so the teachers that are able to go to work are covering classes during their prep period or bringing in classes that needed to be covered into their own classroom.
2. When COVID-19 forced the closures of schools and society in March 2020, schools had to change how schools operated in a span of a couple of days. In those first few weeks, educators were hailed as heroes and many families expressed their gratitude for what educators do on a daily basis, many of whom commented on how they were struggled to handle a couple of kids, let alone classrooms of 30 or more. However, the proverbial honeymoon is over and educators are the scapegoat for just about everything, including why students aren't performing academically, behavioral issues, social-emotional struggles, and more. It's discouraging to educators that pour themselves into their work on a daily basis only to see and hear the armchair quarterbacks continuously scrutinize every little thing.
3. State legislatures and local school boards across the country are only making educators' lives worse with some of the mind-boggling laws and regulations that are being passed. Laws that require weeks, if not an entire year, of lesson plans to be submitted for approval, banned book lists, Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, and several states and localities' critical race theory regulations are making the profession harder and harder to navigate, is discouraging passionate educators, and is driving and will continue to drive even more out of the profession, one that was already in crisis shortage mode. On top of that, the people that are showing up at school board meetings to basically threaten members of the board and the community over some of these issues is downright scary.
If you are an educator that is reading this, KEEPING DOING WHAT YOU ARE DOING! Go to school every day that are able to and give your best to your students. Keep trying new and innovative ways to motivate and educate. Take care of yourself by leaving work at work, doing something that you enjoy, eating good food, and getting in some exercise on a daily basis. Know that you are doing the best that you can and that nobody can take that from you, and know that you are appreciated!
If you are a parent or guardian reading this, know that we are doing our best and have the best interest of your child(ren) in mind, just like you do. We may not agree on everything, but we can also work together to meet the needs and goals of your child(ren). Reach out to us when you have questions or concerns. Please respond when we reach out to you; it's frustrating and discouraging when we try to contact parents and cannot get a response, especially when we have something great to say!
If you are a member of the community reading this, we value your input, but we also value civility. Storming in to a school board meeting and screaming or making threats does not help your cause. We may disagree on various things, but we can work them out in a civilized manner and with a little grace and understanding.
If you are a politician reading this, we really could use your help. We need schools to be adequately funded. We need resources to help students and educators with mental health. We need you, no matter your political beliefs or party affiliation, to work together to solve problems, not just rely on a majority to push through a personal, political, or party agenda. We need you to be examples of civility, debating ideas and policies, not attacking people because of their beliefs, or worse, because of who they are. We need you to stop making mountains out of molehills, or in some cases, mountains out of craters (I'll let you try to interpret what topics I am referring to here).
To anybody that is reading this, the world seems to have turned a corner, at least in the United States. Mask mandates have been dropped in most places, concerts and sporting events are at full capacity, and numbers of positive cases have dropped significantly. While it seems that everything is back to normal, there is still the linger threat of another outbreak at any given time, especially when the city of Shanghai and its 25+ million residents in lockdown, we still need to be vigilant to protect each other. We've come a long way in two years, let's come together to get through whatever the coming days, weeks, months, and years have in store for us!
Until next time...