From Mitchell D. Lingo, Ph.D. via Facebook
COVID:19 – Guilt and the Breaking Point of Teachers
The rhetoric is ramping up as the beginning of the school year draws near, and we are seeing the tired method of society bending teachers to meet society’s needs through guilt.
In my time as an educator and now working with educators, guilt works to get more from teachers. Guilt is used to cajole teachers into working extra hours to craft lesson plans, complete grading, or act as private tutors during breaks or after school. All of this is free of charge.
Society undervalues teachers with entry level salaries that are painfully low compared to peers entering the workforce at similar education levels, only to couple it with pay raises that do not meet the consumer price index. Instead of providing the correct resources of classroom material, society relies on guilt to drive teachers to use their salaries to provide materials for their classrooms. Teachers do this because it is the RIGHT thing to do. Still, it appears this reliance on teachers to do “what society needs them to do” is finally hitting a breaking point.
In the last course of my undergraduate degree in the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, the professor had five public education pillars. He would come to say that the first pillar was “child storage.” To some, this suggestion may be rather an uncouth pronouncement of our education system. But in March, this truth became apparent.
The nation’s economy relies on public schools not only to create human capital but also to provide a place where children are cared for while parents work. To get schools back up and running for the fall, society had only one job to do. Slow the spread of COVID:19. Instead, we chose to go mask-less, eat out at our favorite restaurants or drinks at our favorite bars, send our children off to birthday parties and club sports, and go out to find our new favorite hazy IPA (for the record, IPAs are terrible).
Society put itself in a precarious position where we now have higher COVID diagnoses than we did at its worst in April. A situation that now falls within the 30-day window for teachers to report back to school for the Fall semester.
Instead of watching people get ready to button-down and buckle-up, I am witnessing more of the same.
Guilt towards teachers.
Who cares if you are a teacher worried about your health?
What about the children needing socialization for their mental health?
Are you a pregnant teacher that just was placed on the high-risk category? Well, what about children that have trouble learning online?
Are you really going to deprive them of classroom experience?
No. Teachers are not to blame in this. Society is to blame, along with the total lack of central national leadership in this process.
Teachers are now at a breaking point in which many view returning to work as a potential detriment to their lives and the lives of their family members. I can see it in their posts.
Though there is always a chance for a national teacher strike, we will watch five scenarios play out this fall if classroom teaching returns in August:
(1) Anyone at or near retirement will probably take early retirement if we try to start school in the fall. Given the number of comorbidities that plague Americans’ health, this shouldn’t come as a surprise,
(2) Those teachers with spouses that can afford to be a stay-at-home parent will stay at home,
(3) Pregnant and those intending to get pregnant teachers will take a year off and potentially never return,
(4) teacher’s education graduates and those in their first five years without the “golden handcuffs” will leave the teaching career path,And,
(5) there will be a minimum number of substitutes.
Most substitutes are retirees looking for extra income or recent graduates that couldn’t find a teaching job. Retirees will not come back to sub.
The recent graduates willing to teach will be snatched up in a heartbeat to replace scenarios 1 through 4. Teachers will be pushed into substitute teaching within their buildings for other teachers during their free periods. The situation will hasten the exit from the classroom for those in scenario 4.
In any of the cases, we as a society will face a severe loss of human capital in our teaching force and have the potential to devastate the teaching workforce for years to come.
Finally, teachers should not feel guilty for refusing to show up in order to protect their health and the health of their loved ones.
It is not your fault, and you should not feel guilty about any choice you make in the upcoming months.
Unless you are avoiding Dr. Fauci’s rules, you have nothing to do with the situation we are heading towards.