“Hero” To “Coward” In Six Months? Nope. I Am Neither.

The year 2020 is all but guaranteed to reside in the mind and memories of the public school educators well after their careers in teaching are over.

At least parts of two school years will involve a virtual component or highly stressful in-person situation within a pandemic that is not anywhere under control and an election year that has already politicized school reopenings.

The goal of schooling is learning, but ironically while many are bemoaning that too many schools are “closed” we are really seeing how this six-month stark alteration of life is teaching one of the most most powerful lessons any “student” could learn.

And that lesson is that too many people in society who offer loud opinions and are capable of affecting conditions really do not understand the complexity of public schools and the obstacles that public schools and its educators face on a daily basis.

It’s not so odd then to see how in March teachers were heroes in the eyes of so many. Now, many are cowards in those same eyes.

In March, the state quickly shut down school buildings in the state due to a few known cases of a virus. That alone probably saved lives and staved off transmission. Then we had to enter the world of remote instruction literally overnight. No real preparation for it; no professional development.

Literally overnight.

In March and April, teachers and school leaders were being hailed as “heroes.” In August and September, many of those same people have become “obstacles” to those who want to fully reopen school buildings.

This is just from today on CNN.com:

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

In March and April, closing school buildings became a way to allow the federal government to take quick action to help control the spread of a virus. In August, the federal government wants schools to open to cover up its dismal response to COVID-19.

This is the most recent tally from Johns Hopkins:

But here in North Carolina, we get this:

And a press conference that put out no plan and “expert” medical advice from a nurse who is not currently working in hospitals and has been homeschooling her kids for years.

Her explanation was that teachers have great immune systems.

In March, we needed protecting. Now, we are told just deal with it?

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Why that change of heart? Fear, ignorance, electioneering, profit, desperation? A combination of some or all?

What these past six months have clearly showed us is that too many in our society do not truly understand that schools are more than just buildings and that our public school system is a common good that should be invested in and more respected.

And as the desks are being moved around in my building to accommodate social distancing, I still have not received any PPE, masks, hand sanitizer, or even direct instructions on how to proceed if and when we go to Plan B.

THERE HAS NOT EVEN BEEN ANY TALK OF GIVING TEACHERS ANY ACCESS TO COVID-19 TESTING. But those great immune systems. Right?

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Until people realize that:

  • teachers and administrators are human,
  • teaching is an art – not a science,
  • school is more than academics,
  • teaching is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing,
  • there has to be investment in educational infrastructure,
  • the school / society relationship is more fluid than many realize, and that
  • public education really is political,

Then this idea that teachers were heroes in March but cowards now will continue to spread.

There are teachers in this state who literally are teaching both in-person students and still required to provide synchronous instruction to those students whose families have elected to begin this school year remotely. That could mean teaching one class section as if it were two. But there were no new hours in the day created.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

There are teachers in this state who had to learn new online platforms and try to master new resources during the summer without synchronous professional development and at their own expense and on their own time.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

There are school systems that have stipulated different parameters for grading and student work and expectations that differ greatly from what would happen in a typical school year which require more work and time to maintain.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

And for most every teacher in a school operating under hybrid or remote learning schedules, the expectations of classroom management have been morphed to include aspects that are simply out of the control of any teacher.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Add to that the fact that communication with students and parents have more obstacles attached with remote learning as this pandemic has exacerbated the connectivity divide in this state not to mention the economic woes that many face.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

Teachers have been on task so much since last March that today feels like March 192nd rather than September 12th.

Heroes in March. Cowards in September.

I was doing my job the best I could for my students in March. And in April, And May. And June. And July, And August. And September. Still am today.

I wasn’t a hero for that. I was being a teacher.

But, I sure as hell am not a coward now for still being a teacher. Especially when I am measured by this:

Which includes this: