School Staff Need Vaccines, Too
School Staff Need Vaccines, Too
Our students have been out of the traditional classroom for almost a year now. Some states in our nation have been a little more aggressive at this push to get our kids back to school. Other residents in other states have not been so lucky.
We knew when we went into lockdown in March of last year that our students were probably not going to go back to their classrooms. We knew they would have to adjust to “new normals”. Some of them have been successful, some not so much. We also knew, come January of 2021, that the world was going to miraculously get a bit better or it was going to fall to complete $hit. Biden got “elected” which, in most of the liberal field of education, obviously meant things were going to get better.
As predicted, right on cue, students started trickling into the classroom. “Stoplight” phases were created in some school districts, where number of county COVID cases dictated the number of allowable students per classroom. Other districts went to a “Hybrid” model to control classroom numbers, to help “slow the spread”. Some states went on living as normal and I would venture to say students in those states were better for it.
We had songs, we had dances. We had protests, we even had mini-coffins.
We watched the collapse of the education system over the year. We had all sorts of creative expression by teachers from various school districts across the country to illustrate why walking into a school building during the time of pandemic was a death sentence. There were those who embraced online learning and were committed to keeping it as fun and challenging as it could be for their students. Then, there were those who just wanted a few extra months off.
Sadly, the latter is what people remember because they screech the loudest while the hard-working ones muddle through. We DO appreciate our teachers. We DO recognize the hard work they put into their jobs. We DO care about them and want only the best for their health and the health of their families. We know school administrators feel the same. But I cannot sit silent any more. There are other employees and staff members that make a school district stay afloat. Somehow, these folks slip through the cracks.
You may hear school buzz words regarding “justice” and “equity” and “inclusion” and “diversity”. School districts are made up of many individuals of diverse backgrounds. School districts aren’t solely comprised of teachers with college degrees. School districts are made up of so many more people who are integral to keeping the ship afloat.
There has been the push over the past few weeks to get teachers vaccinated, to make teachers the priority because getting our kids back to school is a priority. So, if may, I am going to address the elephant in the room. What school can run on just teachers alone? Is it really all about the teachers? Where is the so-called “equity” and “inclusion” in this?
What about the individuals who came into work when all of the kids were sent home? What about those food service workers who gather up boxed lunches for distribution to families in need? What about the school support staff who handle administrative tasks while all others were homebound? What about the custodians who tirelessly work to clean and disinfect every single inch of their buildings? What about health staff and compliance staff who go into buildings daily, still trying to wrap their heads around this thing called pandemic, checking daily health attestations and contact tracing? What about tech staff who work daily, answering calls from teachers learning together with them the nuances of new online platforms and talking frustrated students, parents and sometimes grandparents off a ledge? What about network and infrastructure staff and modern management engineers who work frantically day-in and day-out to get systems hardened for better Internet security and providing necessary software for teachers and students? What about special education para educators, who come in daily to assist with students who may not understand proper social distancing and masking protocols? What about substitute coordinators and other HR staffing, who work to fill slots of those who are unable (or unwilling) to come it into the classroom? What about maintenance and facility staff to check the fire alarms, the building sprinkler systems and change the light bulbs? What about transportation staff to pick up and drop off the students? What about building technicians who come into classrooms to troubleshoot why a projector may not be working? What about warehouse staff? Vehicle maintenance staff? What would a school be without any of these people?
It is not that I do not appreciate nor do I want to minimize the work our teachers do. I, for one, could never handle a classroom of 10 kids-let alone 30 or more. This is not about that. But when teacher’s union representatives and high-ranking government officials talk about back-to-school, they talk about the teachers. Not the support staff. So, when the conversation shifts to back-to-school, the teachers are the first in-line for the COVID vaccine. The teachers are the first to get e-mails and correspondence on how to snatch up an appointment for these vaccines.
All animals are equal, they will continue to say.
Just some animals are more equal than others.-George Orwell
While there is an opportunity to be culturally responsible, unions and government officials who are somehow beholden to these unions, will neglect this opportunity. What unions and government officials choose to remain painfully unaware of is the retiree who is 60-plus and working as a lunch lady at her grandson’s elementary school. They don’t see the teacher’s helper in the special education classroom, changing diapers, cleaning up feces. They don’t see the custodian cleaning up vomit in the hallway. They neglect to acknowledge the immigrant food service workers or bus drivers who are thankful to have the opportunity to work in this great country of ours and support their family members. They neglect to acknowledge individuals who have been coming in DAILY since lockdown keeping this airplane in the air, training to maintain the integrity of their districts, their own sanity and doing their best to restore confidence in families who are at their wits end. What do unions and government officials do? They inform their teachers about available vaccines first-not all staff. Everyone else is secondary and can wait, apparently.
After all, they cannot support the teachers in body bags.
So, to any school administrators who are actually reading this and really listening, I implore you to remember your support staff in the next round of communications about vaccines, not just the teachers. Some of those support staff members are also district families. Fun fact: if there is any time to incorporate that word “equity”, it would be now. Personally, I think all teachers should get the coveted COVID-19 shots they need. They can take all of the appointments for all I care. Who knows? After a few shots in the arm, a nice, restful summer and a few Robin DiAngelo book clubs with like-minded friends, they will be ready to hit the ground running with full-time, in-person learning this fall, right?
We should expect nothing less.
Photo Credit: NIH/NIAID/FlickR/CC BY 2.0/Cropped