I ended school on Wednesday optimistic about the fall, while not ideal, rumors I heard about how our school system would handle the limitations next fall seemed doable and still within the realm of good teaching and learning, but then yesterday as I heard a number of people discuss the state's mandates for the fall, I began to worry. My worries grew last night in my dreams with the realization that many at the state level who spoke about children yesterday thought of them as lifeless objects, not active, emotional, spirited beings who move, interact, play and require special attention. You can't humanely warehouse children. That's a frightening notion, and one that the corrupt Trump team has heinously used at the border.
So what's a teacher to do?
First, I need to speak up. I believe the state has put educators and school systems in a tough place with their relaxed guidelines because it seems that they have set the stage for warehousing rather than teaching children--this is not good, and this will exasperate economic divide and inequity. Wealthy parents won't stand for warehousing, while families who don't have the means will have to put up with that. Yet, most children, no matter who they are or what they come from, won't peacefully stand for a warehousing situation in 2020--they know too much about what can be, and it's unlikely that they'll stay in one room all day at 3 feet apart with a teacher at the front of the room teaching--that old time education doesn't work anymore.
So what can we do at this time--how can we teach students in schools that are not made for 3-feet distance and lack of collaboration?
One idea is half days. Half of the students come in the morning and half of the students come in the afternoon. This would heighten transportation costs, but we could reasonably teach this way. If we instituted half days, I could imagine one group coming from 8-11 and the other group coming from 12:30-3:30. Students would be expected to complete the second half of their school day remotely. This would challenge work schedules, child care, and teachers' contracts, but it would allow every child to attend school every day. For some children, due to special circumstances, they would be able to attend the school all day.
Another idea is the one week on and one week off schedule. I think that this schedule holds promise because there could be a remote staff and an in-school staff. This would be doable with regard to space considerations and offer students a positive week in school and positive virtual week. Of course this would challenge work schedules, but perhaps, extended families and work places could make this possible.
I don't think it's a good idea to stuff children in a building simply so that parents can work--children will not learn well in a warehouse situation, they will act up. Instead I believe that everyone in the state has to work to provide students with a child-friendly, safe, and worthy experience in the fall--one that takes into account the active, lively beings that children are. That means that businesses, extended families, and communities will have to help out too with more flexibility with work schedules, use of public buildings, and child care support.
We can do this well, we don't have to settle for a situation that puts children and teachers in an unrealistic, unfriendly, unhealthy warehouse environment--we can create a school that responds well to the situation that exists.