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“There’s no way I’d do it. I’d rather be fired!”

“Sign me up tomorrow; we should be testing all kids and teachers! We’re in a pandemic!”

“It’s a conspiracy. Why do you think they’re so bent on us getting this shot!”

These were the tidbits of conversations that I heard as I clocked in Friday morning at my school after President Biden’s address to the nation around COVID vaccinations. It didn’t matter where I went in the building; the talk of the day between students and staff was heightened and all were on edge.

In between grading narrative essays from 9th graders, I listened with heightened dread as President Biden urged both school systems and governors to increase their vaccination to help keep kids in schools. I knew we were at this point in the cycle of this pandemic. But hearing the pundits replay the vaccine mandate made me remember how my neighbors, co-workers and even family have developed COVID fatigue and went back to living their normal lives despite the community spread getting worse day by day.

Not only was COVID not over, it was mutating. Now add that mutation to the 2021-2022 school year and as the cases continue to rise in schools, we’re on a dangerous path.

As a certified Hippie, I recoil at the thought of the government mandating any medical procedure. But, in the last 18 months, I’ve developed PTSD after watching over 15 family members succumb to COVID complications, being quarantined 5 times after being exposed to COVID by students who refuse to wear a mask, and after being verbally assaulted by parents at the school board meetings who are threatening to sue any parent who teaches critical race theory.

As the last 18+ months flashed before my eyes, I came to a startling realization…

President Biden is right. Teachers and staff should be required to have a COVID-19 vaccination to work in a school. We should be required, but with one exception, teachers should be compensated a living wage for the work they’ve done during this pandemic.

That’s right. For this entire pandemic, the teaching force around the world has been on the front lines fighting this disease as it mutates and hurts everyone in its path. Now it’s time for us to be compensated for such.

When I say compensated, I’m not looking for a measley one-time payment of $2,500. No, I’m speaking about a standard $15,000-$20,000 stipend on top of our district salary that’s permanently given to teachers as a way to retain and attract teachers in the education field. This stipend can be directly added to our salary, or be given in the form of tax credits on insurance or retirement, however, it’s done we deserve this investment.

For many of my colleagues around the world, we work extra jobs, take extra duties just to pay rent, buy groceries and live. After helping a whole generation of students continue to learn, we deserve our share of federal money to subsidize our salaries.

With that money, we could afford :

  • to send our kids to post secondary school without sacrificing our livelihoods.
  • to work our teaching job and spend the time needed to continue to be an effective teacher.
  • to spend unadultrated time with our families instead of spending the weekend working our part-time job.
  • to attend professional learnings that would help us find joy in the profession.
  • to know we’re looked at as the professionals we are and the joy that the public recognizes it.

Of course as soon as people read this there will be my fellow teachers decrying this thought, but the truth is that vaccines are safe. We know that based on the eradication of measles, mumps, yellow fever and a host of other diseases that are almost gone due to vaccines.

So Uncle Joe (as he’s affectionately called), mandate the vaccines and our pay raises.

We thank you in advance.

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