Teachers Want To Teach Less, Though Kids Need More

Teachers Want To Teach Less, Though Kids Need More

Teachers Want To Teach Less, Though Kids Need More

As a veteran parent of the COVID school shutdown between March 2020 and April 2021, I understand the perspective of teachers who are burned out.

However, the solution in this situation is not to simply give the kids LESS school and think the problem will go away.

The Portland (Oregon) teachers union is officially proposing to cut instructional hours at all levels, including every Friday off for high school students, after the first of the year, in order to help everyone “adjust to the stress” of being back in-person full time. Uhhhh… what? School started in September, and NOW the teachers want time off for “stress”?

To help Portland Public Schools’ educators and students adjust to the stresses of resuming full-time in-person classes, the union representing the district’s teachers proposes cancelling in-person instruction for high schoolers one day every week after winter break.”

Under a bargaining agreement proposed by the Portland Association of Teachers Monday afternoon, teachers would spend half of that day offering some students individual or small group help online and a half-day planning future instruction.”

In elementary, K-8 and middle schools, students would arrive two hours late or be sent home two hours early one day a week to give their teachers more time to plan instruction designed to make up for lost learning.”

The kids are behind, the teachers are tired, so LESS face-to-face instructional time is going to help? It’s as if the time since March 2020 was magically warped away, and the assumption that kids can just keep learning without direct intervention is going to be GREAT.

To their credit, the school district is pushing back against the proposal.

District officials expressed skepticism about the wisdom of cutting back on significant amounts of in-person instruction. They indicated they are particularly concerned about students of color, navigating poverty or learning English as a second language, given that their learning needs were poorly met during more than a year in which they received exclusively or largely distance learning.”

“Converting in-person instruction to asynchronous time may create inequities as we believe direct contact with teachers is the most beneficial for our students, particularly since they were in comprehensive distance learning for an extended period of time,” Shawn Bird, the district’s deputy superintendent for instruction, told The Oregonian/OregonLive in an email.”

And they have responded publicly on their Twitter account as well.

Let’s step away from a knee-jerk reaction and consider what is going on here. Teachers are not, as a whole, lazy, or simply looking to avoid working. I say “as a whole” because, yes, there are some who definitely gamed the system when schools closed, or discovered that their subject didn’t translate well online, and ended up mailing it in for over a year. As a parent, I can honestly say that online PE classes were the worst thing ever invented. And yes, homeschooling has exploded in the last year and a half for obvious reasons. However, there will always be parents who cannot effectively homeschool (especially in special education), and parents who have no interest in doing so. We HAVE to have a functional and OPEN public school system for now – at least until there is some kind of universal voucher program.

But back to the teachers. Why are they so burned out? The honest truth is that we are ALL – all of us, not just the teachers – reaping what has been sown for the last 20 months. We sowed fear, panic, isolation, and anxiety into our children, and then wonder why they are lashing out and unable to handle the “normal” routines and stresses of day-to-day living. The adults poured out all of their fears onto the children, have literally made the kids wear their fear on their faces in the form of basically worthless face masks, and none of these education “experts” at the teachers union expected that there would be social and emotional consequences for it? The emotional development of the kids was set back at least 18 months. When the shutdown first began, my son’s teacher at the time commented aloud that after two weeks (what we were initially told how long the school closure would last, remember those quaint old assumptions?), the kids would come back “feral.” And that was just after two weeks. Now teachers and parents are bearing the burden of re-civilizing the kids, and the burden may be too much for teachers. One teacher wrote an editorial about how she is feeling, and why teachers are quitting, in The Seattle Times recently.

A significant number of students are also struggling not only because of the high academic expectations, but because they have been deprived of crucial social interaction. During the pandemic, most parents and guardians were working and trying to make a living to support their families through this crisis. Like most of us, they were in survival mode. But what this means is that students have been returned to us starving for attention as many have been cut off from their friends and extended family members. Not to mention, students also become more independent from their parents during high school and seek attention from other authority figures, such as their teachers, who were not as available to them during this past year. Which leaves us educators with the sacred job of filling this enormous void.”

My days have been spent ensuring my students feel loved and seen and heard. The level of neediness from my students has left me feeling energy deficient and working at maximum capacity. I struggle to give my 8-year-old son the love and attention he seeks because I feel emotionally depleted by my students. Currently, the majority of my students are trying to fulfill their socioemotional needs no matter how much I insist they need my class to earn high school credit (I teach core English). I am seeing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs being played out before my very eyes as students are struggling to show any interest in academics while they are still managing their mental health. And as they should be, because the pandemic is not over.”

I will disagree with the teacher here – the pandemic is functionally over. We have vaccines and therapeutics and the option to take them or not. The pandemic only exists at the governmental level and in people’s minds. And you wonder why the kids are emotionally overwrought and the teachers are too drained to keep coping.

And the next wave of teacher problems is already upon us – lack of substitutes. When no one wants to go into the classroom, no amount of money or benefits is going to convince them to go if they are convinced that COVID is sitting there waiting to pounce on them, or if the kids are emotionally stunted. And do you want to hear the next problem that will be rising up in the next several years? I predict that there will be an upcoming teacher shortage, and it will be a combination of teachers who leave the profession, and those who never start. The kids who are currently graduating from high school or college, and thought about becoming a teacher? Anecdotally, a large portion of those kids are now rejecting the idea of becoming teachers. Some may change their minds if the salary does go up, but others won’t. They will find other professions that will allow them to work with kids without union shenanigans, mandated critical race theory curriculum, and endless upgrades and renewals of teaching credentials. That kind of teacher shortage will accelerate the end of the public school system as we know it.

By endlessly insisting on more concessions, teachers unions don’t seem to be realizing that they are choosing the form of their destructor. Yes, there are legitimate reasons for burnout. But the teachers cannot say that they weren’t warned about the long-term consequences of the shut down. Parents have only been screaming into the whirlwind for over a year. Now the teachers are reaping that same whirlwind. Saying “we told you so” brings me no satisfaction, because it’s the kids who are suffering. And we let it happen.

Featured image via Wokandapix on Pixabay, cropped, Pixabay license

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