The coronavirus pandemic is raging, but schools are beginning to reopen across the country — many with terrifying results.
HuffPost Parenting asked the teachers from our Facebook community what they want parents to know right now. Here’s what they had to say.
“Educators will all tell you that we want to see our kids! We want group work, laughter in our hallways, pizza party incentives and everything that we once had in our schools. We also want to live, and we want our children to live.
With the disruption of 2019-20’s school year, alongside immense loss-grief-trauma, our children will need time to make up any deficits they’ve encountered. This is doubly true for students of color and students with disabilities. … The plans that have been laid out thus far are vague and put us all at risk. It would be great to have had actual teachers create the reopening plans — alongside students and parents.” ― Kinah Ventura-Rosas, school counselor, MS 127 Bronx
“I wish parents who want their kids back because socialization is so important for kids would know that there will be no socializing for kids this year. We’re being trained in appropriate ways to say ‘please back up’ so kids don’t come close to us. We can’t hold their hands, or hug them, or comfort them in any way ― we can’t even offer them a smile. They can’t share toys. They can’t read together. They can’t sit on the rug for learning time, or dance together, or play tag. We can’t social distance with how many students will be in the room, so they will be wearing their masks the entire day ― except at lunch, when they won’t be allowed to talk or interact with other students as they can’t wear masks while they eat.
I wish parents knew what teachers are going through right now! Instead of double-checking lesson plans, I’m double-checking my life insurance policy and making sure my paperwork is in order in case my parents have to take custody of my son when I’m either hospitalized or dead. Instead of spending my meager ‘back-to-school’ savings on items for my students and classroom, I’m spending it on PPE and creating an isolation chamber in the trunk of my car. Instead of being in in-service training that helps me become a better teacher, I have been in meeting after meeting with district staff saying ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I’m so sorry you have to do this’ and ‘follow CDC guidelines’ and ‘we’re not talking about that today,’ while they offer no practical solutions for logistics. Instead of sitting in my classroom excited for a new year, I’m hiding in my storage closet having a panic attack because I’m a teacher, not a health care worker, and whatever I do, it will not be enough. Instead of enjoying the last few weeks of summer with my child at home, I’m viewing every moment we have through the lens of ‘what if this is his last summer with his mom?’ Instead of listening to my school board talk about how community spread will impact opening, I had to watch 10 hours of school board meetings where the only decision they made was that we should follow CDC mask guidelines.
More than anything, I wish parents knew that I am a human being who loves my job and loves my child, and their kids will be fine if they don’t get regular school for a semester or even a year. And teachers are so tired of the conversation being centered around all the things schools provide that have nothing to do with education, because our job is to teach, not to be social workers, food distributors or health care providers. We are having to relearn our jobs from scratch and are being told to do the opposite of everything we’ve ever been trained to do.” ― Anonymous
“As a teacher, I want you to know that I love your children and I want to be with them. I’m just as scared as you are, and I’m doing the best I can. Please be kind.” ― Marcy Hairston
As a society, our selfish desire for normalcy is overpowering our compassion and concern for others. Sara Peterson Rhine
“I hated distance learning in the spring of 2020. I worked extremely hard to provide good content for my students. Still, I know it wasn’t enough.
Understanding that, thinking of having a classroom of students ― even a small number, like my special ed classroom ― is a heavy responsibility. What happens if I do not get to the pencil someone just dropped before another student picks it up? How do I enforce social distancing in a class full of small children who need and crave sensory input? Most of my students all receive additional therapies ― speech, physical therapy, occupational therapy. Those therapists see students from any number of different schools, even different school districts. How do any of us keep our bubbles small in those circumstances? Teaching special ed has been my life’s work. I have had students pass away before. It is heart-wrenching, but I have never felt responsible in any way. Right now, I feel responsible for these students ― children I truly love ― for their very lives. That is an awful lot to ask of any teacher.
My husband and I are both teachers. Here is how we are preparing for back to school:
1. We have created an extra bedroom so that if one of us has to quarantine, we can separate.
2. We have updated our wills and created living wills.
3. We have moved money out of retirement to pay off all of our debt so that if we die or are incapacitated and unable to work, our grown children will not be saddled with any of our debt.” ― Karen Malone
“What I want parents to understand is: We are going to need Clorox wipes, Lysol, tissues, etc. donated. You can’t expect us teachers to buy all of those things with our paychecks. Please don’t get mad when we ask for these items.” ― Emily Hillery Hall
“I want parents to realize that schools are going to look and feel vastly different. We all want our children’s lives to go back to normal, but nothing is normal right now. They won’t be able to interact, collaborate or play with other kids. People keep bringing up mental health — think about how returning to school can adversely impact their mental health. We all want life back, but it can’t just magically happen because we want it to.” ― Kelly Blackburn
“I want parents to know that many of us are also parents and are struggling with the exact same choices/fears/hopes for our own children. I want parents to know that we will do the best we can to reimagine the way we run our classrooms so that your child still gets the amazing learning experience they deserve.” ― April Adams
“I am a high school social studies in Toledo, Ohio. I have spent my summer with my own 5-year-old child doing everything I can to keep her safe. I feel like I am being asked to sacrifice myself. Teachers have never had a voice in the conversation. And in the absence of leadership, each district is forced to attempt to appease parents at the risk of their staff. Our district is laying off teachers and support staff. And every day I am supposed to be creating lessons plans on shifting sands. Meanwhile, people ask me my thoughts and I just deadpan, ‘I don’t want to die.’ Distance learning is not ideal, but we aren’t living in ideal times. The best plan for reopening school is the safest one, but as a society, our selfish desire for normalcy is overpowering our compassion and concern for others.” ― Sara Peterson Rhine
“I want parents to know that I will love their children and I will do everything in my power to keep the medically and mentally safe. I will not judge you for sending your child to school. I will learn to smile with my eyes so your kids know that I am happy to see them every day.” ― Julie Reutter Eddy
“Give grace and be patient.” ― Donna Bloomer Glover
“I would like parents to know that we want their kids to be back in the classroom full time, probably more than they do. We weren’t on vacation in the spring; we were doing a job we were never trained how to do with no notice. Trust us, we don’t want to do a hybrid model any more than you want your kids to. Hybrid means we are working two jobs and we will get less time with our own families and to work with our own kids.” ― Amber Gricius
Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Join us for a virtual conversation with Dr. Becky Kennedy, a psychologist and mom of three, about navigating your child’s back-to-school anxiety at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Find out more here.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.