Scared teachers can't teach and scared students won't learn
I've been reading a lot of takes on NYC schools reopening. We've had daily conversations about it with our summer teachers but conversations abound on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else.
Many salient points have been raised - given the DOE's track record, can they make things safe and will they? Can they be trusted? Given that any policy needs all players to follow the rules - students, teachers, and staff how can that ever happen? What happens when a parent want's their kid in school but wants to opt out of wearing a mask? What happens if kids just straight out refuse?
Then there's logistics and teacher workload - even if you have fewer kids in school there will still be far too many on subway platforms and who knows if they'll be masked outside of the school building. What about bathrooms and class changeovers?
Then there's that little matter of teachers having to now, instead of just five classes which is already too many could effectively be asked to teach double or more - the result of splitting their classes into live and remote. There's also the way they want the live teaching to work which basically reduces the in person instruction to a remote experience.
What isn't being talked about is discomfort and fear.
From what I can tell, a lot of teachers are afraid for their health. Not mildly concerned, afraid. I don't blame them. I would be too. I'm betting a lot of students are also afraid of going back.
How effective is a teacher going to be when they feel that any interaction or even too much time in the wrong space might get them sick or worse. Same for students.
After 9/11 we relocated to Brooklyn Tech. It was surreal and weird but it felt fine. I taught, they learned. We were pushed back to Stuy too early. You could still smell the smoke from the smoldering wreckage of ground zero and there were concerns about the air quality. It was on a lot of our minds all the time we were down on Chambers street. It was certainly on my mind.
I know that I wasn't teaching at anything resembling my normal level and I'm pretty sure the kids weren't learning nearly as well.
Eventually, the smoke cleared, they cleaned the building again (and stole a lot of valuables) and set up sensors that at least seemed more accurate and after a period of time we felt normal or at least close enough.
Of course, that was from a single event not an ongoing pandemic.
I don't believe for one second that NYC schools will be safe for teachers and students in the fall but even if they were, if teachers and students don't feel safe, student learning will suffer.
I get that there are downsides to staying remote but don't fool yourself into believing that just because you're sending your kid to school they'll be socializing and doing all that good in person stuff. They'll be sitting in rows watching a projector and then shuffled home.
Sure, remote is not as good as normal in person classes but don't blame teachers, blame the pandemic. These are exceptional times and bad and unsafe in person "solutions" are much worse than safety of remote. At the end of the day, this pandemic will pass and we will get back to in person. So what if a for a year students don't reach some arbitrary standard bar because remote is sub-optimal.
Even if safe, scared teachers can't teach and scared students won't learn.