I don’t know how many US-based teens I have following me, but this is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I figured I’d go ahead and say it. It’s long, but bear with me, because I kind of feel like this is one of the more Important things I end up saying on this garbage site. Sit back and buckle up, we’re about to get real here for a minute.
We all know our country is a dumpster fire. So I see about a 90% chance that most, if not all, of the public schools in the US are going to be forced either explicitly or implicitly to open for in-person instruction this Fall, despite the pandemic. All for the sake of potential profit. Which of course is despicable. You’re mad. I’m mad. We’re all mad. We’re scared. You’re scared. But I need y’all to listen to me for a minute.
Your teachers are terrified, too, and they NEED y’all in their corner.
They’re used to being scared. They’re scared they’re going to have to watch y’all get shot and not be able to save you. They’re scared they won’t be able to help when they know someone in their class is being abused at home. They’re scared they won’t have the money to fill in all the supply gaps. They’re always scared and stressed and taking on too much.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t garbage teachers out there, because I remember having several. But for the most part, people who sign up for the craptastic pay and horrible hours and unrelenting oversight and tedium and abuse that is teaching in a public school are doing it because they care about y’all more than they care about themselves. My mom was disabled and unable to work for years, but as soon as she heard that my high school was having to resort to distance learning for all their foreign language instruction, she told our superintendent right then and there at the dang open house that she was the new Spanish teacher and she would go redo her TB test the next day. All the physical demands of teaching (and yes, it is a physically intensive job) absolutely contributed to the pulmonary embolism that killed her over Christmas break that year, I have no doubt. She really wasn’t up to it, but she did it anyway. That’s the kind of person she was, and that’s who the vast majority of your teachers are. They care about you guys more than they care about themselves.
I’m telling you this because your teachers are about to be on the front lines, at even more risk than you if that’s possible. They’re about to be in charge of disinfecting the rooms, enforcing mask wearing, adapting lesson plans and schedules, all while being incredibly stressed and staying up late just like normal, which already puts them at high risk for getting sick. They won’t have subs to fill in if they start feeling a bit run down or under the weather. They’re at risk not just of losing their job if they protest or refuse this ridiculousness, they are leaving you all behind. They just can’t do it.
I personally know teachers who are freaking out over this, but they’re not worried about themselves. They’re worried about being the source of infection for their students, as well as the people at home. They’re worried that if they quit, someone is going to get put in their place who won’t care enough to take all the precautions they can. They’re worried about leaving their vulnerable students in a terrible situation without the support they know they can give. But they’re terrified of being responsible for you getting sick. They’re terrified and stuck in an impossible position.
So I know that, at least when I was your age, it was the “cool” thing to be mean to your teachers, to give them crap, to fight them every step of the way and just make their day horrible. The kids in the class below me made it a point of pride to see how many teachers they could run off before Christmas. But this is not the time for that.
Get behind your teachers. If y’all are getting forced into this, don’t add more struggle to it. Get together to get it done. Don’t make them nag you about your masks. Don’t make them have to come separate you from your friends. Follow the guidelines and get in it for the long haul. This is not the time to “but I don’t waaaaaaaanna.” I know how bad it sucks to not be able to see your friends and then not be able to hug them or shake hands or fist bump or anything. I know how uncomfortable the masks are. I know how dumb this all is and how the people in charge aren’t caring at all for your safety and it hurts and it’s scary and it makes you mad.
But your teachers are right there with you. They’re the ones trying to keep you all safe. There isn’t a teacher out there that wants to open for in person instruction until this is over. They’re willing to do what they have to in order to make online and remote and self-guided learning work, but that’s not their call. And teachers who are speaking out are under threat of getting fired. My best friend (who is pregnant and working at a charter school) and her colleagues got word anonymously from another district that teachers there who spoke out and were vocally against the decision to open again were explicitly threatened with termination. And the fear my friend has isn’t for her paycheck, it’s for you guys, and for her family at home. Not even for herself.
It’s hard to see your teachers as people sometimes, especially when their tempers run short or they give you too much homework. But underneath the stress is a person who cares so dang much they’re willing to now risk their own lives just to give you all the best chance of getting through this. You will probably never see how much work they’re having to do just to lessen your risk a little bit. Again, there are some crappy teachers out there who don’t care, but I can almost guarantee you that they’ve all jumped ship now. Unfortunately a lot of the good ones are being forced overboard, too. Some are immunocompromised and can’t do it. How do you choose between your own life and the kids you’ve dedicated your life to serving?
Just please, I’m begging you, the only way the risk is lessened is if y’all work with your teachers as a team. Do what they ask, follow the ridiculous rules, don’t make them come in and bust up a fight, stick with it, and BE PATIENT. They’re trying so hard, y’all. They don’t want this for you guys. They’re just as scared as you; moreso, honestly. And they’re at more risk than you just by virtue of how many of you guys they have to interact with (some schools are planning to have teachers rotate instead of students, to minimize the number of exposures kids have, but this increases the number of exposures the teachers get).
All y’all are getting totally thrown under the bus by government mandates and people who don’t care and aren’t going to be involved in the risk. Don’t make it worse by treating each other like the enemy. Your teachers care so dang much, and they want to help you, but now they need your help. Get in their corner, even if they’re grouchy and have a short fuse. They’re trying to do the impossible under threat of death just so y’all have the best chance of being okay.