Ever since schools went online, teachers, students, and parents have wondered how and when school will begin to be in person again. Teachers, in particular, want nothing more than to be able to go back to school and teach in person in the fall. Most teachers would love the opportunity to be able to finish out the year with their students now.
But the thing I want most of all is to be able to go back to school and be safe doing it.
When it was first announced that schools would be closed, I was worried about what the rest of the year would look like. By the time that school was canceled for the year, I wasn't surprised about the announcement. I knew that it was what was safest, and I honestly, didn't feel comfortable going back. Looking to the fall, I know that the simplest thing is to reopen, but I don't think it's the safest.
If you ask any teacher what they want, it's to be able to start school in person in the fall. There's no arguing that teaching in person is better than teaching online. Schools provide so much for students than just an education, and none of those benefits transfer to online school. But there's a difference between what teachers want, and what's safest for both students and teachers.
Teachers were told to take their lesson plans online with little to no notice, and they did. Teachers have been asked to modify their lessons for students without internet, with learning disabilities, who are now in charge of watching siblings, and they did. Now, teachers are being asked to go back to school in the fall, with no real research showing how safe it is.
Until it's definitely safe to do so, teachers shouldn't have to go back to work.
It worries me to see schools start to return to in-person classes in other states. Even with taking precautions, including masks, smaller class sizes, and limited passing periods, it still feels like being back in school is not safe yet.
Now, everyone is looking to the governor, and the Department of Education, for what schools will look like in the fall. For years, legislators have decided everything for teachers. Parents and legislators want to put everything back to normal, without considering the realities of being a teacher.
With most of the recommendations that are offered, I can't see them working in my classroom, current and future. I know that with elementary schools, it's easy to limit class sizes to ten, but with high schoolers, they switch classes all of the time, so one class of 10, doesn't mean that the next class of 10 is the same.
Teachers already deal with large class sizes, and teaching to students with all different learning levels, while also trying to fight against public opinions. During a pandemic, they should have a voice. Teachers know what would and wouldn't work in their classrooms.
When I think about the classroom I was in this past year, I'm not sure how students could be safest in my room. First, there were no windows, so it would be impossible to get fresh air filtered into the classroom. Second, in my classroom, I had auditorium-style seating, and half of the desks or seats were broken. I was already limited in where I could place students, and social distancing would be almost impossible. Third, the task of wearing masks all day, and talking loud enough so students can hear me, seems like an impossible task.
Is this really the safest option we have for teachers?
As an education student, about to start student teaching at the high school level, I worry about what my final year will be. It would be so much easier for me and my schooling if everything was just back to normal and in person. But just because it's easier, doesn't mean it's safer.
It's hard to know what's best in terms of teaching during a pandemic, but at least, teachers should be able to feel safe. Now that we're out of the classroom for the foreseeable future, going back seems like it will be so different that it still won't be able to occur.