Thursday, July 30, 2020

Beyond the Edge of the Blackboard

Boundaries. It's all about setting boundaries.

Unless you are suddenly thrust into a novel situation where there are no rules, no precedents, just guidelines hurriedly put in place over a few hours, a day, a weekend.

And the struggle is real. 

Teachers used to be able to show up at the school door, enter their classroom, get a lunch break (30 min, which for a professional with a college degree is far below the industry standard), leave school at the end of the day, and put the classroom behind them until the next day of work.

Contrary to the belief of many elementary students (and middle school, and high school, and even parents), teachers don't climb into their closet at the end of the day and turn off like a robot only to reactivate the next morning.

But the transition to online education in the wake of school closings has been anything but smooth, for students AND for teachers.

What used to be the sporadic casual encounters between parents/students and teachers, in grocery stores and public places outside of school, has now morphed into something pervasive.

Most teachers are in the profession because they care about people and helping others learn. They arrive at school early and work late, they work on weekends and holidays, and forego their lunch breaks as needed. They go un/underpaid to coach sports and advise clubs and activities.

And that is their choice.

But now they are waking up and responding to texts and emails before or during their breakfast, long before the "start" of the school day. They are doing the same during lunch, and dinner, and instead of relaxing in the evening and watching their favorite movie or show.

This is who they are by nature.

But the emails and texts and phone calls continue long past the school day, and well into holidays and weekends.

These compassionate, selfless teachers who used to be able to manage their job as well as their own children (whose education they now need to supervise), pets, and household are suddenly on call 24/7.

Last time I checked, being "on call" only applied to doctors (who are paid considerably more than teachers).

Now there is a growing vocal minority screaming to "defund" the schools, because "if schools don't reopen, then teachers don't need to be paid".

Seriously? If they don't need to be paid, then stop calling and texting and emailing, and complaining if you don't get an immediate response.

Dust off your own skills and sit down at the kitchen table with your children and teach them yourself. 

Make sure you get copies of all the state tests that your children are expected to pass so that you can bring them up to standards as the teachers are expected to do (most states require that homeschooled children pass state tests).

Not interested? Well then stop the nonsense and realize that we are in unprecedented times.

Pretend that we are back in a time (less than a year ago) when teachers weren't available at your text and call (and email and ping on MS Meetings or Zoom).

Request an appointment within the "school day" or soon after to discuss your concerns.

But most of all, realize that reopening schools may be necessary so that our society doesn't bleed out teachers who are rapidly burning out.

All the student educational issues aside, there are serious mental/emotional health ramifications occurring for teachers that need to be addressed.

Help them set boundaries by setting them for yourself.

And when schools reopen, those teachers that don't feel comfortable returning to work can be reassigned to providing the online education for those students whose parents keep them on remote instruction.

If "it takes a village to raise a child", prove that we aren't living in a village of opportunistic, self-centered, ego-driven adults who will sacrifice others for their own benefit.

Give teachers the respect for their dedication that you are now realizing they deserve.

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