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Over the years we have had many conversations with teachers. This article is assembled from those conversations and a very recent conversation we have had that relates to the struggle to give our children a quality educational experience, get children and teachers back into the classroom, and address everyone's concerns for public health.  Our sources have all asked to remain anonymous.    

A Public Teacher’s Perspective

We are moving from remote teaching to teaching and working some of the time at the school. Right now, it is a loose schedule.  As I re-join the community, I feel as though I am in the Twilight Zone.  Every action and plan are oriented around a tight schedule, distancing, and the separation of children from one another.

There is an eerily regimented way in which the children are moving and talking and acting, Stepford like. Teachers remark how it is the best-behaved class they have ever had. Everyone follows directions and gets along. Yet, I hear no happy voices, no singing, no raucous play, and no shouting, no jostling in line, no laughter. And I wonder….

Imagine if you can, I am sitting in my room planning a Zoom class, and 15 little first graders file in silently, one at a time, leaving perfectly distanced 6-foot spaces between them. Without any adult direction, they have washed hands before entering the classroom. Not one spoke a word; even when I said hello and explained who I was. My day begins...    

Today, teachers received an email regarding a sanction against singing nursery songs in the kindergarten. It was reported that singing had occurred!  At the staff meeting, my co-workers/teachers, talked about how terrified they were of getting sick and how dangerous they felt it was to do their job. As I look around, I see a hyper-safe environment the administration created for us to teach in.  I guess I am shocked, but I also feel compassion for them, because all the public has heard for the last 9 months is how unsafe it is to be in a workplace. These are otherwise highly intelligent, master’s degree holding professionals that I work with.  So, if I am seeing it here in my school, I think of all the millions of people out there who must also be terrified. I am so sorry for them. 

I listen to my co-workers at the staff meetings. I have worked with them all throughout my career.  I wonder, will one of these beautiful people be the first one that come for your, or cancel you in the cancel culture we now live in? Will they do that to me if I disagree with them?   History shows that can happen. The cancel culture is here. I believe that they really do not know how it has affected us all; how it fosters an air of distrust and silence that would otherwise provide a place for us to talk and share our thoughts, opinions, and concerns.

Well, we are back to square one. They have decided to keep grades 3 thru12 home for the foreseeable future. Zero cases of Covid, during the trial reopening, but fear has won again.

So, I have returned to video teaching. Well now I can eat and drink in my home classroom Now I do not have to go to the bathroom next to a 20 ft. high window which is opened wide (to air out the Covid germs), not wear a mask, not have a fan blowing on high with a window open right above the radiator all winter (same reason as before), and not have to walk around with a ruler, hoping to find enough room for 15 students to be seated 6 ft. apart.


Our Take

In our current world of heightened censorship, it is going to be difficult for people to know who they can trust to talk to about what is going on in their jobs and homes. Teachers who do not share the Washington Education Assoc. (WEA) viewpoints, have long-ago self-censored themselves. They no longer share comments about concerns for the curriculum, the students, and how it has affected their ability to teach and relate to the students in their classroom. They fear they will be targeted and punished. Legitimate fear that they will be silenced, or cancelled, if they share their views with their co-workers in the teacher’s lounge; the risk to be unfairly treated by administrators and a very real fear of losing their job.  If you have raised children in the public school system on the west side of Washington State, this has been true since the 1990’s. Unless you can truly be trusted your child’s teacher will not be able to you share these thins with you, to speak honestly about what it is like to teach in school today. We thank our contributors for allowing their perspectives to be shared so that we can better understand their reality. We need to share more and fear less. How do we do that as we are all living behind covid closed doors?

It is important that we hear from the people whose daily lives have been unjustly affected by this culture of fear, a culture which no longer fosters or values these principles. We need to hear from all perspectives to figure out what is going on in our world. That is why we visit with friends.  If I need to purchase a table saw, I talk to my friend in the construction industry before buying one. If I am planning to go on vacation to Disneyland with my children, I ask other parents what their experiences where and what to avoid, so that our vacation is fun for me and my family, or friends; we want to be sure not to miss a thing while on vacation. I do not care what their political opinions are. I am looking for their actual knowledge.  I want to learn from them.  That way I can make better judgements for myself and my family.

That dissenting voice may the one that saves you money, or saves you time, or calms your fears, or saves your life.  We need to be careful about squashing it.  

~ Kris Halterman and Lorraine Newman