Tuesday, July 21, 2020

You Can't Spitball Teaching

At some point, we are going to have to turn our attention to preparing to do what we actually get paid to do. The crescendo of voices asserting that we should only find ways to not go back may be needed but are also preventing this required turn of our attention and this is compounding the problem.

You can't spend all of this time working to convince people to not go back and then spitball teaching.

Like everyone else, I have mixed feelings about going back (I am very concerned about my health and on the other hand, I really want my life back!!). I'm angry at reporters, like the ones from the New York Times and Chalkbeat, who pretend that the data pointing to children spreading the disease doesn't exist. This is a pathetic attempt to make teachers look like they are selfish.

But it also an effective one.  A typical reader will scan the news these days and read that children do not spread the disease. This is untrue but it is repeated by the likes of the New York Times and New York Post and Chalkbeat on a routine basis. That same reader will then check their social media and find it filled with teachers launching into discussions only about how they do not want to go back. That reader will conclude that two plus two makes four; that teachers are bitching and complaining over nothing. This narrative has become destructive. And our participation in it in the manner makes us complicit. Each public attempt to figure out new ways to "not go back" chips away at our credibility as educators and increases the destruction of this narrative.

We need that credibility! The responsible voices among us have already begun to understand this and have adjusted their voices accordingly. The rest of folks need to adjust as well.  The consequence of not doing so will eventually be that no one of importance will feel the slightest need to listen to teachers when it comes to the safety of students.

To be clear these voices asserting only that we should not go back are all correct. If broadway will not open until January 3,  I see no need to risk the health of children and their families.  Frankly, I am glad some of these voices are out there at least some of the time. We need public voices correcting the out-right lies about the virus in the press, while at the same time balancing, in the most responsible of ways, the concerns of those they see around them. But those voices must exist along side the myriad of educator voices who also recognize the basic need to begin planning for it. Those discussions must exist alongside one another.

Last week, I noticed New York's most famous teacher-writer, Arthur Goldstein, have a public discussion with another famous teacher-turned school leader. "The mayor's plan .. is ridiculous" asserted Arthur Goldstein. "With careful planning, we could have [at least] a good hybrid learning plan in place" responded the teacher-turned school leader. "I'm sorry to disagree" responded Arthur Goldstein. The discussion went on and on in this manner. This is how I would I expect two educators -each representing the highest of professionalism and ideals- to engage in a discussion about this issue. It's how we all expect educators to communicate.

Some of the city's other teacher voices -folks who seem to have basic training in organizing tactics- have taken it upon themselves to use approaches more akin to salting in order to convince other teachers that it is just too dangerous to even consider anything but not returning. I've written how this is irresponsible and defies the very nature of our jobs as educators.

These people seize upon some of the same arguments that other, more legitimate, critical voices use. "The timing is too dangerous". "The plan is too ridiculously poor". "The leaders are terrible". (Again, all true).   But what separates this lot from the more respected voices is their  singular focus on encouraging others to not discuss opening schools.

These other voices embrace fear-mongering. They insist that there is simply no other discussion that can possibly be had. And these folks are using the same techniques that salesmen or union organizers use. They place themselves at the center of every discussion. They applaud new voices expressing concern. They redirect the conversations away from anything not related to the parameters that they themselves would prefer.  They incite. And then play the victim. And, yes, they ridicule any voice that does not agree with what they are selling. This is almost exactly like salting. And, while I'm not surprised to see it, I am surprised to see it used to exploit people's fears during a very dangerous time.

Again the presence of critical voices should be as welcoming as the presence of dissuading voices are disconcerting. This mayor, more than any other, responds to public pressure. And this plan to reopen must, at least, be shared so that teachers and support staff can begin planning. But, as I've written before, the insistence that we discuss only the risks around reopening -to the exclusion of everything else- will hurt students the most (as well as our own credibility and reputations as educators).

It is the collection of these other voices that will, ultimately, lead to a very high price. Parents and others are already expressing suspicions around teachers expressing concerns. They (almost rightly) see an agenda at play -to not return no matter what. And damn if they resent it.

When a former New York Times columnist recently suggested that teachers who are scared to return should "quit", the Twittersphere went wild with comments of praise for the sentiment -and comments of disgust for teachers. Much of this disgust has come from the absence of discussions around planning and preparing. These voices are, in fact, placing all teachers into a corner from which we may not come out.

And again, the harm is not in the commission of these discussions but in the omission of other discussions or actions that eventually must, by sheer necessity of the challenges we face, take place as well.  These other voices aren't just allowing teachers to ignore making actual preparations. They are actively dissuading teachers from devoting almost any public thought at all to preparing at all.

This is only the practical aspect behind the (simple) assertion that, at some point, we are going to have to turn our attention to preparing to do what we actually get paid to do.

In my last post, I asked whether we want cops patrolling the protests who had not been trained in latest policing techniques or doctors and nurses working in our hospitals who had not been trained in the latest techniques to fight COVID-19? These other voices who are out there today seem keen on one thing and one thing only: NOT giving you a moment to even think about being prepared for what happens in September. Rest assured, when September comes, these voices will have all but vanished leaving only you and your class of students and a whole lot of unaddressed questions.


  1. On wacky way to do this at the middle/high school level is to have the teacher in each day teaching a normal schedule. Half the kids show up each day - the other half watch on the livestream (just use Google Meet or Zoom from the teacher's camera on his/her open laptop). Still too crowded?-- have 1/3 of the kids show up each day.
    Of course it has a thousand issues including reduced learning - and doubtlessly the NYC Covid-19 stuff is winding down - but it is a way to open.

    1. I agree! And I don't think this is wacky at all. In fact, having this on the table is a great way for us to begin the discussion about how in the hell we are supposed to do this.

  2. If they offer that elusive buyout or early retirement, they’ll save a boat load of money, while allowing the most vulnerable of staff to walk away instead of entering the Petri dish

    1. its prob too late to offer one for this upcoming school year anyway.

    2. @4:44 ifnwe look at the two bills I wrote about, then yes. Those nills calles for a 30 day period starting July 30. Too many pieces would have to be in place by then for that to happen.

      And offering itnafter school starts is just inviting too much chaos.

  3. Any buyout at this point would most likely come in May 2021 for the 2021-22 school year. I’ve read that any buyout is predicated federal money going to the state and city

  4. What the journalists / politicians have twisted is this.....kids are asymptomatic carriers and most surely will spread the virus to everyone near them....including teachers, parents, security, other students that will remain asymptomatic. Poor old granny at home....%&*#@ her!