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Guest Writer: Tamara Russell
Education is political. This is an inescapable fact.
Here in Florida, we are seeing a resurgence of public interest in how decisions get made around education.
Let me tell you who is not getting asked about a darn thing: teachers.
No one asked us if we thought it would be ‘normal’ to attempt to turn a brick and mortar classroom experience into a distance learning one.
No one asked about the emotional health and well-being of teachers as we navigate learning how to teach ‘digitally’ while managing our own anxieties around the health and wellness of our own families.
No one asked us what we thought kids needed to feel loved and supported by our school communities so that we could prioritize THAT.
The state is asking all the wrong questions to all the wrong people.
Kids don’t need distance learning right now, they need security and safety.
For me? Teaching has always been about loving and leading kids.
For politicians? It’s about a bottom line.
Governor DeSantis is no different. He doesn’t believe the virus is serious. His every decision since the crisis started has shown that. Whether it was delaying closing beaches, delaying asking residents to stay home, or even his communication around closing schools– this governor has demonstrated that coronavirus is no big deal. His executive order on April 3rd allows for folks to go to church!
Then, as if our fair state hadn’t gotten enough attention for his slow judgment already, Governor DeSantis dropped a series of bombs that had even the most uninformed voters scratching their heads.
He said that he would not ‘rule out’ sending kids back to school in May if the conditions were right. He’s going to ‘look at the evidence and make a decision‘. It is possible that some school districts will go back, while others with higher concentrations of the virus may remain in a distance learning format.
He supported his thinking with the false notion that Coronavirus hadn’t killed anyone under 25, and that we lose more kids to the flu yearly.
Here the thing: Kids aren’t most interested in the learning that they are missing. They are interested in the moments they are missing with their friends. The first thing the kids will want to do is return to the ‘normal’ that includes spending time with their friends…and maybe even a few teachers.
That’s going to involve close contact, which is exactly how the virus spreads. Much of the data we have on the coronavirus relates to how it affects adults but more information is starting to come in on the potential risks of allowing children to congregate together during the pandemic. Any elementary school teacher will tell you that the kids love to be with each other and handwashing is optional without intervention!
As a teacher here, I am wondering when, if ever someone is going to ask us if we’re alright? If we’re checking in on ourselves emotionally during this time. This state has a long history of not valuing teachers. From the battles over retirement and salaries. To tying our testing data to our worth in the profession. To working tirelessly on the legislative side to enlarge the charter school movement and defund public schools and break up teacher unions.
Now, along with worrying about their personal health and safety, many teachers will have to consider the implications of potentially going back to work and exposing themselves or their families to the virus. Many of our teachers have elderly parents that live locally. There are teachers who have auto-immune disorders. Teachers that struggle with other chronic health issues.
When Parkland happened, many of us had to contemplate what it would look like to ‘give our lives’ in service to the children and families of the state. Now, it looks like we are going to have to consider that again as it relates to coronavirus and I for one am over it.
Tamara Russell is a NBCT Middle Childhood generalist currently teaching third grade in Central Florida. Even after 20+ years in the classroom, Tamara thrives on learning new things from her classroom experiences and personal reading. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys traveling with her husband, reading for pleasure, and connecting with other teachers through Instagram, Facebook, and her blog.