Please, Don’t Ask Me About the Plans for School

Author’s Note: This is a rant from a very stressed educator who has no control over what the school year will look like. I’m sure there are teachers who feel differently, but these are my feelings and they are valid. 

If there’s one thing I’ve experienced a LOT recently, it’s friends/parents turning to me for guidance when it comes to school reopening in the fall. It’s become the new “how’s the weather?” question.

So, what are the plans for school in the fall?

I know it’s a well-meaning question because *duh* I’m a teacher. But, it’s the biggest loaded question you could possibly ask right now. You also run the risk of me crying, scoffing, laughing, or yelling when I respond.

To ask a teacher what the plans are for the fall implies that we have ANY input in this situation.

Do you think teachers are being asked what they think is safe and best for the students AND teachers? Considering the fact that we have close to no professional autonomy, you can probably answer that question. Teachers will find out the plans at exactly the same time as parents. I know parents want students back at school (heck, we want to be back in our classrooms, too!) but keep in mind that plans will be made and teachers will be expected to make those plans work with likely the same amount of support we usually receive. It’s easy to SAY kids need to be in school, but the burden falls on the teachers to make it happen.

Stressed because you need to make arrangements?

Me, too. I usually spend my summer reading and planning for the first few weeks of school. Right now I am completely frozen, crippled. I don’t know what to plan for. In-person? Online? Hybrid? Will I have to spend the first few days of school teaching students how to access virtual assignments? Do I need to modify lessons to stretch into a block schedule? Will a sanitization procedure need to be included in my 49-minute class period? Obviously all my group activities will have to be benched for the time being. And don’t get me started on arranging my desks. Side note: If anyone knows how to space 30 desks 6 feet apart in my classroom, I will be happy to email you the measurements!

For every “solution” thrown out there, teachers have at least a dozen questions and concerns.

If it’s virtual, how will students access the course materials? What if a student doesn’t have internet access? Will Zoom meetings be required? How will we implement accommodations? What if a student is struggling? How do we reach the students who never log in or complete assignments? What about lunch? What about those students who have to share laptops with siblings? How do I ensure the student is the one completing the work? What training will be provided to teachers on effective and appropriate virtual lessons? What about electives like art, band, theater, PE?

If it’s in-person, how will students social distance while getting to school on the bus or in-between classes? Will classes be smaller in size? How will I effectively teach standing on one side of the room the whole time? Where will I get supplies to clean the desks? What if a student doesn’t have a mask or refuses to wear a mask? What about lunch–will we have more lunch periods or will they have to eat in the classrooms? Will the absence policy allow for students to miss more days if they get sick? What if I get sick?  What if my child gets sick? What if one of my students tested positive? Will I have to quarantine?

If it’s hybrid, see the above concerns for in-person and virtual. Also, the same question any parent will have–what do I do on the days my child doesn’t go to school? Surely I can’t stay home half the time.

Don’t tell me there’s a low-risk of me getting sick.

My husband jokingly calls me Patient 0 because I bring home the germs. Every cold, flu, and stomach bug has been passed from my students to me and then to my family. It happens every fall and every spring, and it’s not just because I encounter 150+ students every day. So many parents send their kids to school sick! I know there are absentee policies (again, not a teacher’s decision), but you send a kid to school sick and the rest of them drop like flies. Do you think parents are going to be extra cautious now that COVID-19 is a possibility? Of course not. Do you know who’s going to have to deal with figuring out the makeup work for the endless cycle of absent students, or have to put together weeks’ worth of sub plans? Not policymakers or politicians…

So, what can you do instead of asking what the plans are?

Be supportive

Let the teachers rant, if anything so they feel heard (because no one else seems to be listening). Don’t offer any solutions because we’ve heard it all. Don’t tell me why students need to be in school or why they need to stay home–it just reaffirms the fact that teachers always come last.

Be positive

When the school plans are made, have a positive attitude especially in front of your kids. You will set the tone before the first day of school starts. They need to wear a mask? No problem! It’s going to be great. Let’s practice. They need to spread out on the bus? Think of all the room you’ll have! They need to do some virtual learning? It’s going to be so much better than last year (because teachers will have more than a weekend to figure things out this time).

Donations are always appreciated

Send extra supplies with your kid if you can–teachers will need it now more than ever especially since supplies probably won’t be shared. Grab an extra box of tissues, paper towels, or Clorox wipes. Those things are GOLD. Sending donations in the middle of the year is a HUGE help, too, because that’s when we usually start running low. I’m not lying when I say “All I want for Christmas is a pack of paper towels and Kleenex.”

Be patient

Teachers are treading uncharted waters with no map or guidance right now. We are doing the best we can in spite of the stress, anger, and anxiety this fall brings. The teachers I know are the smartest, hardest working group of people who love their students something fierce. But we’re also all human and will be figuring it out as we go this year because no year of teaching could have ever prepared us for this. Give grace, be patient, and set realistic expectations.


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