Last night we saw a few friends we haven’t seen in quite a while. I’m fully vaccinated and we were outside and careful. And most of them at some point asked the two questions, or variations of two questions, I’ve heard so many times over the last year or so.
And, when told the (current) plan is for full classrooms five days a week after spring break –
How do you feel about that?
Common courtesy check ins
But, as I’ve learned, loaded. At least to some extent. Somehow, politicized. Depending.
I need to take into consideration multiple things. Do they have school-aged kids? What does their kids’ district do? Do I know this? What has the pattern for opening back up been for them and which options, if given, did they choose? At election time (in some cases), whose name would be on a sign in their front yard. And, did they actually put a sign in their front yard?
I also have to suss out if I think they’re asking just because that’s what the script calls for in the situation. Is it just a nicety they know needs lobbing? Or are they genuinely interested in a teacher’s perspective? Or their friend’s?
For the first question, about work, I mostly just tell the truth. It’s been hard. Really, really hard. I kind of like that I get to speak for all or most educators here. Just in case the person receiving my answer enters online discussions in order to berate the lazy teachers in their area without one iota of understanding or empathy for what’s been happening. Then, sometimes we get into what makes it hard and sometimes they just say they bet it is and we move on to the weather.
But for the second question, the follow up, concerning my particular take on whatever the district has chosen recently or for the near future, I shrug a soldier’s shrug and tell whoever is asking – friend, son, family, colleague – that it doesn’t matter.
I see good and bad in all of it. I am a teacher and a parent of a child who struggles mightily with this new way of doing school and my heart breaks for all involved depending on the situation. There is honest good and bad inl the choices people who get paid way more than I do have been made to make. And yes, I fully understand that all of us are allowed and should have ideas about what our new and ever changing directives are. Most people I work with do and seemingly everyone who doesn’t work for or in a school does, whether they have kids in school or not. And if I went inside and scraped the edges of my brain I am sure I have them too. But for me, and only me (I am not speaking for all educators here) I tell them it doesn’t matter. For a year we have been asked to do our jobs differently over and over. So have the kids. It’s no one’s fault. In my eyes anyways. And my job is the one part of the world I get to, and have to, look at without cynicism. I am, at all times, hopeful that every single person in my field from top to bottom is in it for altruistic purposes and would never knowingly do anything to the detriment of the children placed in our care.
So, believing that, I say that it doesn’t matter how I feel about remote or hybrid or in person or online or 4 days a week or 2 or 5. Because I’m not quitting. I’m not pitchforking it over to the boss’ office. If we’re having a discussion about future plans I will absolutely lend my two cents but once that admin gavel crashes it doesn’t matter how I feel about the latest ruling from on high. Again, many do and I applaud and respect their right to voice concerns and even animosity. Frustration, for sure. But I was mowed over by the trying-to-do-what’s-best machine way back last spring. Tell me what to do and I will do it. I will learn it and I will do my best to make it happen.
I have to believe we’re almost there. Right now the windows are open and the sun has been sticking around to help the snow remove itself. There is a very symbolic summer on the horizon. I know it’s not going to be over, over but it’s closer and it will be warm and it’ll be a break. For them and for us. And the one thing I do know – we all need it.