I made the mistake of watching Betsy DeVos being interviewed on TV last night while she robotically repeated the same two phrases over and over again- “Students must return to school in the fall” “Students must be full time learning” and never answered any of the actual questions being asked. No answers about “how” this would happen for public schools or “what” it would look like to keep everyone in schools safe. (Mind you, not much was brought up about teacher safety.)

I also have been making the mistake of reading WAY too many social media posts, where everyone has an opinion on the subject. (And like Ms. DeVos, most of them have no experience in education or in what actual school looks like.)

I recently read someone’s comment on a friend’s post that said “This is America- a free country. If there are teachers that are that fearful of getting sick, they need to find a different profession! Simple as that!” Wow.

Now, she may be right- finding a different profession does sound pretty tempting at this point. It would be nice not to have to worry about “experts (with no actual education expertise) discussing what my working conditions should be every time I turn on the TV. But it was the “fear” part that got me more.

It’s a little bit more than being “fearful” of getting sick. You see, teachers get sick all of the time. We deal with it. Most times by powering through a work day or week regardless, because we “don’t want to let the kids down” or “we have an important meeting about a student” or “I know the curriculum so well, it’s better for me to do it instead of a sub”.

It is a fear of getting sick with a novel virus that even the best scientists still don’t have figured out. It is the fear of bringing it home to my family, to my immune comprised husband, or to our “risk category” parents (one of which lives with me).

It is the fear that only an educator knows best- the knowledge of how grossly under funded our country’s schools are. Especially in the time of a global pandemic when we know everyone’s safety depends on money, money that our school districts just don’t have and never will.

It is being “fearful” before this pandemic, of going to school and sending my own kids to school everyday in a country that never addresses the problem of school shootings and has historically disregarded the safety of everyone in schools.

So, it used to just be fear of the possibility that someday I may have to save my students’ lives from a shooter. Now it’s fear on how to keep them safe from this virus. Oh, and on that subject- how will we practice active shooter drills and “social distance” at the same time when we are all hiding in a corner, behind a door or in a closet?

One thing I realized was that she was definitely right about one thing. We DO live in America. And this is exactly why most of us teachers are so “fearful”. -E

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