Teachers throughout the country are opposing decrees that they conduct remote learning from their school buildings. I agree that this is a bogus, punitive, childish decree that disempowers and disrespects educators. Why?
First of all, teaching from school for some will be deadly. A teacher in Arizona who was teaching remotely from school with her colleagues did die from the coronavirus. She and her colleagues all got sick. School buildings are relatively small for the large numbers of staff and students they serve. Multiple staff members share small teachers' rooms, bathrooms, and other common planning spaces and machines. Also, sadly, many schools are outdated and unhealthy--there's been a lack of funding and investment in many school buildings which make those buildings deadly during a pandemic. This share means educators will be in the midst of each other often, and they'll bring their potential exposure to the virus from the multiple outside-of-school connections they have into the school building. This exposure will threaten educators' lives.
I worked from home last spring. I had the entire basement to myself with a desk, computer, and other teaching/learning tools. I had my own bathroom and kitchen nearby. I wasn't interrupted by multiple staff members stopping in. I could focus well on the work I was doing with students. In many ways, I was able to focus much more from home than I was able to focus from the busy school environment. Further I didn't have to spend time commuting, I ate great lunches, and I didn't have to worry about a number of issues/activities I would typically have to worry about if I had to go into a school building each day.
Issues related to child care are better dealt with when educators are working from home. Some decision makers worry that teachers will spend more time caring for their own children than the children they teach. This is so sad and troubling since this demonstrates decision makers' lack of trust or respect for educators' professionalism. Rather than getting involved with how educators manage their own homes and children, I believe it is important for systems to relay professional expectations for remote learning, let educators know what the expectations are, and then check in to make sure those expectations are met. Plus, when educators are working from home, their children's illnesses don't have to translate into a family sick day--many educators can teach while nursing a child who has a slight illness. Of course, more serious illnesses will require a family sick day. Also when educators are working from home, they themselves do not have to take as many sick days and there's no need for snow days either. There's potentially more consistency with remote learning from home than when educators have to teach from their school buildings. Obviously, educators with young children working from home, will likely have to hire some childcare too so they can teach.
Some staff will prefer to work from school. To provide the choice to educators would likely result in just-right, healthy numbers of educators working from classrooms. Typically, when you give educators voice and leadership over their work, the decisions are solid, positive, and enriching for students, families, and the educators too.
Sadly, the pandemic has resulted in a blow to teacher leadership. So many making decisions and speaking about schools during a pandemic are leaders without classroom teaching experience. The way they discuss schools and their mission/vision related to education are often outdated, self-serving, and negative. To allow educators to lead their profession will result in more positive, effective learning programs that match pandemic limitations, health concerns, and students' amazing potential.
There is confusion over childcare and education. While educators do care for children, their priority is to educate children. I believe that the country should have given every family with children under 12 making $200,000 or less a year a healthy childcare stipend. That stipend could have supported parents who want to stay home, relatives/friends who are willing to offer childcare, or safe childcare centers. This would have taken care of the childcare situation, and then I believe that schools could focus on what it means to teach well during a pandemic by prioritizing consistent, dynamic, healthy programs to promote the best of what children can learn and do in modern, brain-friendly, holistic ways.
I believe that leadership should have looked for the promise in the pandemic problem. The promise for education was to look for ways to elevate the ability to teach remotely in creative, life-enriching ways. To maximize that promise for the relatively short-time that full-time remote learning will take place, would add capacity to schools into the future.
Another promise the pandemic problem holds is the promise to uplift families in every community with good supports. Rather than focus on the school as the center of social services, communities could re-look at how they deploy social services such as good medical care, nutrition, quality homes, healthy recreation, safe neighborhoods, and childcare in new and creative ways that build strong communities and elevate responsibilty/ability for families to care for their children in positive ways.
Sadly, I believe that many school systems and decision makers ignored teacher leadership when it came to decisions for teaching/learning during a pandemic. Had they put educators center stage with regard to these decisions with lots of choice, decisions would have been better and lots of time would not have been wasted. We can do better when it comes to leadership and decision making for top-notch education, and we must if we want to continue to educate children with quality and commitment.