Folks who are my age know that this teacher/blogger right here has, on and off, been active in defense of children and of their teachers for more than ten years now.
I have written about teachers being persecuted for expressing their views.
I have written about teachers being fired for doing things like using mouthwash.
I written about teachers being rolled into an overflowing rubber room because they tried to engage a quiet student.
I named this blog DoEnuts for a reason. That reason is rooted in how the city treats its teachers when it really matters; when it really counts.
In a word; it's nuts.
And I have written, rather respectfully, about the harm and damage the previous mayor had caused teachers and students.
But I have never once written, nor did I thought I would ever have to write, about teachers who were sent to their deaths, in the pursuit of their duties -as teachers- because of a decision made by a mayor of the City of New York.
As I write this, I have counted two of our colleagues who were killed by this COVID19 disaster. My friend Emily James informs me that this number is incorrect. She say five is more accurate. I understand that one of these teachers, in the same borough I teach, was very popular and was widely loved by his students. His death must leave a great many children and parents feeling a deep loss.
Yet this loss was never once mentioned by our mayor. And this silence has spoken volumes about how much his city cares about teachers.
To be clear, this teacher from Queens did not catch the virus in a supermarket or at a playground in late February or in his own bathroom. These notions are ridiculous. This colleague, and those like him, became sick after being ordered to report to work -ordered to report to a school during a time when more than ten people were not allowed to not gather park. He was ordered along with 1.4 million other human beings who were told to go to school. And he reported.
How many students across New York City had transmitted the disease by then?
To how many adults was that disease transmitted by then?
We will never know.
And the reason we will never know is because the governments of New York will never bother to ask these questions. And the government in Washington is too fucked to address them. These amazing Health Care workers -who either live or have come to New York to help the sick- are the true heroes in this moment of our history. Because of them, and their efforts and the true cost they are paying, I have held off on expressing my anger about the peril that I and, and the 300,000 other city employees had been placed in during those cold wintery days of early March.
After all, who gives a damn about 76,000 city teachers who dutifully reported to work, and perhaps got sick, because an elected official had invoked all of his powers to make sure they reported? And who cares if this happened because the same mayor kept using those powers until he was -finally- relieved of them by way of petition?
No one. That's who. No one cares about something like that during a time like this.
No one except those teachers and their families and their colleagues. That's who.
Look, calling out a man for sending teachers to their grave is not wrong. And sending teachers into an environment where they could become sick and die will never ever be right. And that's not satire; that's just the plain truth of it.
Regular readers here know that I carry three plaques on my wall for teaching. One is as a runner up in Big Apple Teacher awards (yep. Made it to the final "final" round). Another, the Cohen Award, is granted only by teachers of my license area to others who they deem worthy (yay!). My first plaque, however (and the one I'm most proud of), is for bringing the principles of my religion into the daily practices of my teaching. Not my actual religion, mind you. But the principles behind that religion. Among those principles are things like acceptance. But also hope, compassion, mutual struggle. Those types of things. It was granted to me after the recommendation of a good friend and fellow blogger over at the Raging Horse Blog).
And part of the principles of my faith is understanding events through a greater context. After all, context matters. Context counts. Context works in helping us understand. Context clarifies and cuts through the malaise to help capture the true substance of an act or an event. Context is the crucial component in truly understanding. Without it, we are lost. And with it, we all understand.
So I ask you: What is the true context of this moment in history for NYC teachers?
I would like to thank New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for granting me four whole days in my Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) in exchange for working during the most important days of the year in my faith. My faith has held me together during this crisis. I suppose I am glad that I received a few days off in exchange for being close to that faith. So, thank you.
I'll be working on those days, Mr. Mayor. And I will bring with me the responsibilities associated with my calling to public service as I do.