Please understand that as I speak my truth in this forum, I am very much in my feelings. This 100-year pandemic has laid painfully bare the inequities in our society.
As public schools are a microcosm of each society, we have seen in a new light how American schools reflect the values of our nation. They, like all other systems, are built on caste and fed by capitalism. We like to imagine that the right rhetoric will change these truths – will change outcomes for our children – while we continue to feed the same capitalistic and hierarchical systems that are designed for the precise outcomes they have always produced. Using the same tools, we expect to build a different building, a different society. It is a special kind of magical thinking, and educators are tired of being the scapegoats for what is “left behind” in the wake of a system designed for the exact outcomes it produces.
I had a fantasy in the early days of the pandemic that we would take this time to radically re-envision what school is supposed to be, but I see there is no chance of that now. There will be no reformation, only the frenzy to maintain the systems we know and return as quickly as possible to business as usual.
Evanston/Skokie School District 65 continues to scrutinize the same data to draw conclusions about our children and our educators, regardless of the fact that we are living in an unprecedented reality in education where students are taking these tests remotely. Solutions for our future are being drawn based on these unreliable data points. And yet, we are told our leadership is committed to interrupting the status quo. How can that possibly be when the systems remain the same?
The powers that be continue to interact with and defer to parent demands without even asking educators for their thoughts or ideas. Charged language gets volleyed about and reported to regional rags. False dichotomies are declared and the pandemic becomes a means to an end rather than the task at hand.
Meanwhile, we continue to teach from wherever we are, and we feel invisible.
We feel used and abused and forgotten.
My colleagues and I can tell you every child who desperately needs to be back in a school building. We would have told you the first three weeks of school, but our input is not valued. Our expertise is minimized or outright dismissed. We are treated like interchangeable foot soldiers whose lives are dispensable. We are lectured about grace and self-care when all we want is respect and consideration.
This pandemic started last March. Plans were not made or executed by 12-month employees when we were in a much better position to do so. To be told about a return to in-person learning in February during Vice President Kamala Harris’ swearing-in was a slap in the face.
The vaccine is here. What difference do a few more weeks make? Those of us in older buildings will be required to open our windows and wear our winter coats to teach simultaneously on zoom and in person.
Is this really what parents want?