HAIBUN for the (NOT)-SPRING OF 2020

young grain
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

 

Today, the smell of the fresh cut grass reminded me of early spring, when students sit in school and begin to get spring fever. They still have a few months to go before summer break, but they feel the fever deep inside—they need to be outside. What I sometimes would tell them is that we teachers also felt spring fever, and that it is so hard for us to keep teaching adjectives and adverbs, Macbeth and Les Mis, and that we dread the testing season in April because we too need to be outside.

Every head turns to the windows if we hear the roar of that first spring motorcycle, and I have to turn my face away from the students when I hear this, for the gray skirt and muddy boots and salt stained old leather shoes and the puffy coat are just too much to deal with when I need spring as well, but I must say, “Students, settle down. We have to get ready for the big tests coming up.”

This year was the Pandemic spring of 2020, the not-spring. I had planned to write down each day of spring news: what date did the rolled up green open to leaves? What day did the first hint of crepe paper yellow show on the witch hazel? What day did the snow drops bloom? And did the trout lily survive, did the daffodil bulbs make it through the squirrel’s hunt? What’s the earliest date the chipmunks emerge, their metabolisms too fast to survive winter while awake?

 

This year, there was

no spring, only a season

of trying not to breathe.

When and How to Reopen Schools: Some Considerations

When and How to Reopen Schools: Some Considerations

Deciding whether or not or HOW to reopen schools in a few weeks is not the same as negotiating a car deal. With the car deal, you might offer to pay some more to get those cool options you want. Win/ win is possible.

Not so with reopening our schools. We need to determine what is best for each school, and that might be different depending on where the school is located, the funding available for needed safety equipment, and the level of risk we are willing to take. How many deaths are acceptable of 6-year-old children? Teenagers? Adults? We need to decide what to do when teachers fall ill and have to quarantine, and we cannot get subs because they are mainly retirees who don’t want to go into the classroom. Do we DOUBLE or “TRIPLE up the students then? We have to decide what to do if the schools must completely close again in an area due to a surge.

This is not a win/ win type negotiation such as asking for a raise. Your boss can retain a great employee with a raise, and a raise can help an employee.

There is no win/ win here except for the virus going away or us getting a surefire and safe vaccine. No amount of wishing can make this happen. Magical thinking, wishful thinking won’t make it so.

It is inconvenient for everyone, this virus. EVERYONE.

However, it is not a “school” problem. it is a nationwide problem, and no matter how inconvenient it is, we cannot put this on schools, or more accurately, on the backs and health of teachers and their loved ones.

It’s not like teachers are asking for a lunch hour (ha!), or a raise. Teachers are asking for a fighting chance of living through this pandemic, based on science, not on their “convenience” factor to those who desperately need help with childcare, computer access, food access, and more. All those needs should be addressed, but not on the backs of teachers, who are overwhelmingly female.

Ask yourself, would we ask business executives to go into crowded conference rooms right now, hour after hour, expect them to clean up after each meeting, and probably expect them to buy their own supplies? No. Would we ask them to work in dangerous conditions so that folks would have childcare? No, we would not.

Sadly, frighteningly, this is not a negotiation. This is a fight for the health and lives of our students, faculty, and staff.

And that should not be negotiable. It is either safe go to back in August, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, there is a lot of work to do to address those MANY societal needs schools try to address.

If so, and we know the pandemic is still going to be around in August, we need to plan for risk reduction and to plan for what we will do if too “many” deaths occur, if a surge happens, and how we will deal with the fact that we opened schools in August during a nationwide/ global pandemic when masks have not been worn often enough because of the mistaken notion that “rights” are being trammeled asking folks to help slow a deadly virus, when people were traveling for pleasure during the lock down, when we have had no single act of positive leadership from the White House to convince us anyone has the best interests of students, faculty, or staff in mind. I know I do not trust anyone in Washington to make these decisions, for they have proven their goal is to win an election at any cost, even the cost of the health of a generation of school children and countless faculty, staff, and other school workers.

I might trust a group of concerned parents, faculty, staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, doctors, public health experts to make such a decision for each school, with different decisions made for different schools. 

That may even be too chaotic right now, and we may find we need to ALL stay home from school in August, as AWFUL as that would be. 

Again, it’s not a car deal, where you get pinstriping if you sign a lease today. The stakes are so very high. Our kids can “catch up” with schooling if and only if they are alive, and our teachers cannot teach if they fall ill or die.

There it is.  No win/ win. It’s the awful truth. This situation fits the definition of dilemma, truly no “good” or win/win answer.