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“Please Give Us Grace”: 6 Teachers from Around the Country on Going Back to School This September
Sofia Kraushaar/Getty Images

Whether your school is opting for in-person teaching, virtual learning or a hybrid this September, it’s safe to say that every parent is feeling the stress. And they’re not the only ones. Teachers are also dealing with the uncertainty of this school year, as we found out when we asked them to share their thoughts, concerns and hopes for this fall. The takeaway? There are no easy answers, but teachers are friggin’ heroes and we need to make sure their voices are part of this conversation. Here’s what they had to say.

1. The 35-year-old 4th grade teacher in a Chicago suburb

What’s your school’s plan? “Right now, our district's plan is to open with a hybrid model.”

How do you feel about schools reopening? “Our district's policy is that all students and staff will wear masks, which should mitigate a significant amount of risk, but I don't know how I will communicate properly with my students from behind a mask. Adults can't hear me properly, and I have a loud voice! So much humor and nuance is lost from behind a mask, I'm afraid some of the fun will be missing from the room. We [normally] play a lot of games, move around, share about ourselves, but I'm scared to get close to my students right now. I don't want to give hugs or high fives like I normally do. A significant amount of classroom management is built through closeness. I don't know how I will manage that this year.”

How do you feel about virtual learning? “Virtual learning may not be as effective, but at least the students and staff will be safe. I'm also very aware of the inequities surrounding remote learning. Not all students have access to the same type of internet or devices, although our district is working on providing hotspots to all families that need them. Our students are 1:1 with devices, but I know that isn’t the case for all school districts. We have children who receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch, and our district has come up with a plan to continue to provide those services to our students and families. Children receive many social services through their school, and remote learning limits or inhibits many of them.”

What parents should know: “I'm hoping that this disruption to our normal systems will allow for some reform. Perhaps this will give us a chance as a society to examine some of the inequities that are pervasive in our public schools and make a positive change.”

2. The 49-year-old ESL teacher in Deer Park, New York

What’s your school’s plan? “If Governor Cuomo allows it, we will be hybrid.”

How do you feel about schools reopening? “I would love for schools to reopen because I miss the kids and they need the face-to-face and social interaction with peers, especially when learning a new language. But I am concerned that after a few weeks we will let our guard down and forget to social distance.”

How do you feel about virtual learning? “My larger concern is that (my students in particular) have no help at home and limited or no access to the internet or may have to share devices with siblings or parents. [In the spring,] I had many students who did not sign on.”

What parents should know: “We are not going to be any less dedicated than we have been in the past, but we truly need all their support because these procedures are new and traumatic for us and even more so for their children.”

3. The 61-year-old 4th grade teacher in a San Diego suburb

What’s your school’s plan? “We are starting the year with distance learning.”

How do you feel about schools reopening? “I think distance learning is the only responsible and ethical choice given the rising numbers of COVID-19 in San Diego County. As we know, teacher stress creates student stress. How can it be avoided in person under current conditions? To think that we can provide the social emotional support necessary to creating a high functioning learning environment is asking something that seems impossible behind masks from six feet away, while constantly monitoring all the safety protocols.”

How do you feel about virtual learning? “I know that teaching virtually is not the same and I will be so excited to teach in person again when we can do it safely.”

What parents should know: “Every teacher I know has each student and family's best interests at heart. We are passionate about what we do and will do our best to make the best of a very difficult situation. We love our students and we became teachers because we are passionate about what we do. Please give us grace and work together with us as a team.”

4. The 23-year-old high school history teacher in Massachusetts

What’s your school’s plan? “We are doing a hybrid model. The in-person instruction will be four days a week.”

How do you feel about schools reopening? “If you had asked me if I wanted schools to reopen a month ago, I would have replied with a resounding ‘Yes!’ However, due to the current case numbers and issues that have come up in the past week or two, I feel very anxious about teaching in person. Recently, I have started to realize just how at-risk teachers are if they return to in-person teaching.”

How do you feel about virtual learning? “When I taught virtually from March to June, I felt like I had lost a sense of my identity, even though I was still ‘teaching’ online classes. I did not get to see a student smile after receiving an A on an essay, my coworkers crowding into a little room for special education meetings before the sun rises, or 25 ‘thumbs up’ to signal learning was unfolding right before my eyes. Students deserve an education where they can learn with their peers, experience social interaction, and get out of their homes each day to come to the one place that is designed for their unique learning.”

What parents should know: “This has been a stressful time for everyone. That being said, we need compassion and understanding for all during this time. Teaching online is 10 billion times more work for us. It's so frustrating to read comments on social media saying that teachers are trying to get out of doing work. I hope that people know how much we care about the future generation of children—your grandchildren, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters—who deserve nothing but attention, love and care.”

5. The 26-year-old 3rd grade teacher in Tampa, Florida

What’s your school’s plan? “The district I live in voted to postpone in-person classes for an additional four weeks.”

How do you feel about in-person teaching right now? “I do want schools to reopen in September. I feel that the long-term impact on a child’s social-emotional growth far outweighs the concern of COVID-19. I have seen my former students grow tremendously in their social and emotional growth, and I feel that if we continue to delay school opening, these students will only regress.”

How do you feel about virtual learning? My concerns with school reopening relate to individuals who may not follow the guidelines set in place for the protection of students (i.e., wearing masks, distancing, setting classroom expectations, etc.). In order to have a successful return to school, it is imperative that everyone is on the same page. In my opinion, children will not be able to grow both intellectually and emotionally if we do not reopen and continue using a virtual platform.”

What parents should know: “I have been working 8 to 12 hour days over the past two weeks to make sure my classroom is safe. I want parents and the general public to know that most teachers do what they do because of their hearts for children and their desire to watch them grow and succeed. There are teachers, like myself, ready to hit the ground running and start school. Things will look different this time around, but if we all work together to keep our students safe, it will be worth it.”

6. The 40-year-old 7th grade English teacher from Boston

What’s your school’s plan? “Things are changing daily. Three weeks ago, my district was planning on doing a hybrid model, but a few days ago they suggested that the year will begin with remote learning. Once the district has a plan the union has to negotiate it. What I know is that school is set to start in four weeks and there are many unanswered questions. This is very stressful for families.”

How do you feel about in-person teaching right now? “I do not want to see schools reopen in September. I think for the safety of all students and teachers, following a remote model (similar to how we ended the school year in the spring) is our best option. While the best learning does happen in the classrooms, the virus has made that a challenge. I think we need to prioritize safety right now.” '

How do you feel about virtual learning? “The community I teach in has many students that live in shelters or low-income housing. School is often a very safe place for students. We have the ability to feed them and care for them. We also can help families with needed resources.”

What parents should know: “Teachers sign up to teach because we love working with kids and want them to reach their full potential. In March, we were viewed as heroes but now we are viewed as lazy for not wanting to go into work. The reality is we cannot wait to get back into our classrooms with our students! But this can only happen when it is safe for everyone. This means set guidelines for safety are put in place (like rules for social distancing, bathrooms are constantly being cleaned, PPE is provided, etc.). Our school community is our extended family. We would be devastated if anything were to happen to our students or our colleagues. Trust us to deliver instruction remotely until it is safe to return to our buildings.”

RELATED: What Will School Look Like in September?

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