I entered teaching at probably the strangest time ever. On my first day, I wasn’t standing in front of a classroom full of kids that I had no idea who they were, and they had no idea who I was. Instead, I wore pajama bottoms and a professional-looking shirt and had a steaming cup of coffee next to me as I logged into my computer.
Everyone said that this would be the hardest thing I have ever done. In reality, starting teaching virtually where I wasn’t genuinely face-to-face with these kids was really easy and probably the more comfortable way of transitioning into this career.
Now it’s my second year of teaching, and kids are at school for the most part. We have kids that are constantly being quarantined and missing out, but I’m not logging on setting up a Google Meet. If these kids are truly sick, I want them home recovering, not worrying about school.
What I do miss from that first year of teaching virtually is if the kids who didn’t want to participate in class turned the cameras off. They weren’t disrupting class. They weren’t being rude or disrespectful or screaming in the hallways or kicking my door. They just didn’t answer when I called on them. And sometimes, I would like to go back to not having those disruptions in class, which allowed those who truly wanted to learn the chance to learn. But there’s a catch. When they’re at home avoiding class, not learning, playing video games, or zoning out binge-watching TV, something is being missed, and it’s not just an education.
Some students genuinely need their teachers, and it has nothing to do with what’s in a book. Teachers see your student every single day. We may notice something is off with a child before a parent ever does. Schools give kids a chance to learn and grow socially, whereas when you’re at home and have a device stuck in your face, you’re never going to do that. People are braver behind a keyboard when they don’t think anybody can see what they do or experience the hurt they may cause someone with their words. So while I wish I could go back to last year and not have to deal with some of these students who drive me up a wall, I wouldn’t.
I have seen how much help teachers can give students. I have seen how much guidance teachers can provide parents who are lost and don’t know how to help their child. I have been an advocate and have seen other teachers be advocates for students who need help with learning disabilities that their parents don’t realize that their child may have.
When I worked in news, I turned off my computer and went home. I didn’t think about anything else. The show was over, and there was nothing I could do to fix it. However, you turn off your computer at this job, and things stick with you because sometimes these kids only have their teachers to take care of them, even if they drive their teachers crazy most days.
I read an article the other day that said they expect 20% of the teachers to quit by the end of the school year. I get that. I see how much these people love their job and love their students, but the shit that teachers deal with day-to-day would have most people quit their jobs. Teachers don’t just come to work and teach. Aside from creating their lesson plans participating in parent teacher conferences, they must also complete a variety of continued education courses and district-wide compliance courses. Some of it makes sense, and some of it is complete bullshit. Most teachers walk on a fine line about what they can talk to their students about and what they can’t. I have seen videos of teachers losing their absolute minds and being downright disrespectful to their students to the point where if it happened to my child, I’d be taking the teacher to court. However, at the same time, many parents allow their children to be disrespectful to their teachers, scream at their teacher, argue, and fight, and when a parent hears about it, their very first reaction is to blame the teacher.
No adult wants to put up with this kind of mental abuse on a day-to-day basis. Many people wouldn’t last a week in this field. They would look at their paycheck and say, “Fuck this. I’m out.” And guess what? A lot are about to do just that.
I used to joke and say, why do kids get so many days off school. Well, now I know they’re completely burnt out. A large part of the students’ education, crammed into their heads, seems to be solely for a test, not something practical. There are so many standardized tests that these children must pass and, half the time, it’s just reflecting on if the teacher was able to spit out what the district thinks the kids should know in that particular window. There is nothing that focuses on what the teacher has truly taught them or even if the kids are learning and retaining. Some kids are great test-takers while others aren’t, and those test-takers earn the school district a better grade.
In these two short years, I’ve learned that those days off aren’t just for the kids, and they are there for the adults who have to watch your kids while you go to work and have free time away from children. So while these teachers and administrators love their jobs and want to take care of your kids to make sure that they become well-rounded adults, most don’t have the support from their community. They could be like Palm Beach County and have an entire school board filled with people who have never been inside a classroom making decisions for teachers.
These are things that I would never have known sitting in a newsroom. These are things that I would never have known as a parent when my daughter enters kindergarten next year.
Something has to change because the people who take care of your kids when you’re at work will be gone soon. And while I may still be here, six other teachers might be gone. Something has to change because we can’t keep saying that this is the strangest time ever to teach because eventually the strangest time becomes routine, and people don’t won’t put up with this kind of bullshit for long.