Tuesday, April 21, 2020

An Educator's Lament

It doesn't surprise me in the least to see posts and articles and tweets that veer between, "Teachers are lazy slobs who are getting paid to start summer vacation early" and "Teacher are goddamn heroes and we should give them all million dollar raises." These are pretty much the two positions you see in normal times as well. I've been teaching since 1992, and in that time I've seen very few heroes and even fewer lazy slobs. (Two, to be precise.) Most of us are just...teachers.

But what is hard to take right now is all the varying opinions about what we should be doing during the pandemic. I've been told:

  • Don't grade anything, because it's unfair to judge kids for how they perform during a crisis.
  • You have to keep grading, because otherwise the kids won't do anything, and any way, how else will we know if we are meeting our objectives?
  • Take advantage of this huge teachable moment to educate the kids about: the science and sociology of the Corona Virus, fact checking, developing empathy for Anne Frank and kids in refugee camps, etc.
  • You are piling on to the students' trauma if you force them to continue thinking about the current situation. 
  • Give lots of choice. They need flexibility.
  • Give them a schedule and clear directions. Choice is overwhelming right now.
  • Be mindful that some kids are now in situations that are unsafe for them, or have family responsibilities that will preclude them being focused on schoolwork.
  • Be mindful that assuming kids are worse off without school smacks of racism and white saviorism.
  • Kids are desperate for the normalcy and routines of school.
  • Kids are desperate for a new way of learning they aren't able to get in school.
  • Do video conferences so they can reconnect with familiar faces.
  • Don't do video conferences, because they're an invasion of student privacy.
  • You just do what is right for you and your kids.
  • If you think what you're doing is right for "your kids," you are revealing your ignorance of the nuances of our students' lives. 
You get the picture. 

As we started this distance learning experiment, I used to panic every time I read one of takes, because I'm so worried I'm doing it wrong. Then I started to get angry when I read them, because I realized NOBODY knows what "doing it right" looks like. But instead of saying, "Here's what I'm thinking right now about this," it's always framed as "If you are any kind of teacher at all, this is what you need to be doing." And the fact that I kind of agree with every single one of the above statements, even though they contradict each other every which way, goes to show it's much more nuanced than can be captured in any hectoring tweet or bossy article. 

Yeah. Well. How's YOUR job going?


  1. To me, this is almost a no win situation. It's sort of unfair to everyone, and I agree with a lot of the statements up there too. I also feel bad for all the people, who put so much time and effort into the school year, and will never get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The seniors, the AP students, members of sports teams and clubs, the theater and band kids, teachers, advisors, and directors. I do believe the kids will be alright. Next year's teachers will probably have to fill in some gaps for some of the kids, but we can still be sad about what we lost or didn't get to enjoy.

  2. Oh, it must be an impossible time to be a teacher!

    My kids' teachers have had vastly different styles during this time of e-learning, and I'll confess that I've had thoughts flit through my mind that certain teachers don't seem to be doing much while others seem to be very plugged in and working hard to be as present as possible. I've tried to remind myself that I don't know every teacher's situations and that some classes may be easier than others to teach from afar. Seeing this post ALSO reminds me that many teachers are probably just as stressed about doing things "right" as I am about my kids getting value out of e-learning. So thank you for that!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. I agree with Sam and Nicole, it's impossible. As a person who is teaching said kids, I can also see both sides of the arguments. But what I think parents (and jerky know-it-alls writing annoying internet articles) need to keep in mind is that teachers are human, and this is new to them too. Often, they're embarking without ANY real guidance from their schools, either. My kids' school was like "we'll kind of have school, you can maybe go online if you want, your teacher will let you know" and we haven't heard from the school since. So that puts the burden solely on the teacher, to try to figure out what works best for both themselves and 30+ students (this is elementary, Sam has only one teacher, but Lena has two, one reading and one math). Then you add in griping parents, and man, your head must be spinning. And I am going to be honest- I have NO IDEA how some kids get stuff done. I am without a job, so I can devote the time to helping my kids, but parents who still have to work... no idea. Add to it, very few of the kids seem to either have access to the technology or parents who are able/willing to help. I will say, the biggest thing of importance to me as a parent is just like, that I get some kind of feedback at some point. Sammy's teacher is awesome about this, she checks in constantly, even just to see how the kids are doing. Lena's don't, and it's a bit worrisome, but again, I know that they are juggling all KINDS of crap and that they themselves don't know what the actual "plan" is, because they were GIVEN no plan! And like, obviously they have families to worry about and such, and who knows what else. Bottom line is that especially in our country, we suck at cutting people slack. And now, more than ever, we need to be compassionate, especially to people like teachers who are in vastly uncharted territory. Anyway, I know you don't think of yourself as a hero, but I do ♥♥

  4. YIKES! Talk about contradictory viewpoints. All you can do is whatever feels right to you I guess. You're in a tough position.

    As for my job? I just have to make sure stuff gets signed and returned by specific government deadlines, which are all over the place now.


Please share your thoughts. Comments are almost as sweet as chocolate!