Thursday, April 01, 2021

What's The Good News?

 The title of the article is what caught me: Oakland Teachers Refuse To Return To School.

I let it sit there, staring back at me from my screen while I tried to avoid clicking on it. I tried not to let the second part of the title "Despite Getting COVID Vaccine Priority." The article, a short one, quoted a letter from an unnamed "school official" from Cleveland Elementary and Oakland School Board Director Shanthi Gonzales. Both described their disappointment and frustration over the situation. The piece mentions parents who are "frustrated with the district and union’s inability to force teachers to return for in-person teaching," finding the situation "laughable." 

Which is interesting for a couple of reasons: Number one, I have been at my school site nearly every single day since the initial shelter-in-place order was lifted a year ago. My principal and I have been there to coordinate material distribution, fix tech problems, and solve any issues that we can by being there in person. A few of our staff have made it their practice to teach their Zoom classes from their classrooms to connect kids with the place that they know. And they didn't want to stray to far from the work that they do: Teaching. That didn't stop a year ago, and nobody with whom I work has been refusing to do their job. On the contrary. The past year has been full of stories of colleagues going above and beyond the limitations put in place by COVID-19. Delivering books to students' homes, bringing kids one at a time to the campus to give a socially distanced tutorial, going that extra mile to make sure that families in our community were safe and sound during this extraordinary time. 

Number two: When our parents were surveyed, just over a third of them asked that their kids be returned to some form of in-person instruction. Another third replied that they would rather stick out the pandemic in distance learning. And more than a quarter of our parents did not respond to repeated attempts to ask them what they preferred. When the district and the teachers' union finally came to an understanding, there were still plenty of loose threads in this sweater. How do we...? What will it look like when...? What if...? There were "what ifs" by the tractor trailer full. I am grateful that we will be taking it slow to begin with, and we won't be endangering anyone with our best guesses. Our site has two committed and fully vaccinated volunteers to bring part of their classes back to the building we all left before Spring Break a year ago. 

And now might be a good time to point out that the byline for this particular news story was that of a Caitlin McFall, from Fox News. Which probably explains why no teachers were interviewed for this expose. That might have promoted a second side of the argument, because there really needs to be an argument about this, doesn't there? 

See you around the schoolyard. 

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