Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Do We Need to Open for Student Emotional and Social Well-being?

I hear we need to open the buildings from a lot of people. Some of them, in fact, are people I respect. Alas, most are not. But the argument, that kids are missing something really important, is not even debatable. The flaw with that argument is this--even if we open the buildings, kids aren't going to get what they were missing.

Let's look at the de Blasio-Carranza plan, such as it is. From what I've seen, it entails kids sitting social distanced from one another. This is not how I wanted to be with my friends as a child or teenager, and I doubt much has changed since then. In our school, in fact, we can't even remove the desks from rooms. We have no place to put them, so there will be a pile of unused desks in every classroom. (You can see me interviewed on this topic on NY 1 right here.) Maybe we can use them for climbable sculptures in PE classes.

This is going to be uncomfortable for all of us, but I think our youngest students will be hurt most. Imagine coming out of quarantine, coming out of being shut off from the very social contact that makes you a kid. From there, you're placed in a corner somewhere and told not to move. If you're getting your hair done these days, you'll notice there are plastic curtains between customers to avoid the spread of COVID. Let's say that de Blasio gets embarrassed enough to provide this protection.

So there you are, six years old, in a corner surrounded by the kind of plastic you'd usually have to visit a garage to see. You're wearing a mask and so are all your friends. Or maybe they aren't your friends and maybe they never will be. After all, there's no recess. There's no play time. Just sit in your corner and do the work the teacher can't come over and help you with. The teacher needs to let the papers sit for 24 hours so as to preclude contamination, so you won't be getting them back for a while.

Once you do, you'll have more work to do, since the teacher was unable to help you in class yesterday, and can't do so now either. Hopefully you don't need too much extra help in this class or others, because you ain't getting it. There will be some variation with older students. Maybe they'll be a little less depressed. Maybe they'll be a little more depressed. In fact, maybe they'll be a lot more depressed. Bill de Blasio's prescription is not going to help children of any age who feel alienated. In fact, it's more than likely to exacerbate the situation.

Let's take the focus off the kids for a moment. You , the teacher, are the one who's going to have to tell the kids to sit in that corner and not move. Do you think that will inspire the kids as much as it would it you helped them read and write, or taught them skills that could improve their lives? I don't.

Who's gonna tell kids to put their masks on and keep them there? Well, that will be you too. Do you think kids of any age are going to love or respect you for making them wear uncomfortable masks that may, in the case of some students, inhibit their breathing? I don't know. I've been binge-watching ER for the past few weeks, and I've noticed that breathing seems a really important thing.

Could you get a letter in your file for forcing some kid to wear a mask? In fact, before you get the letter, will you be able to force a kid to wear a mask. That's hard to say. Mulgrew says it's non-negotiable, but I read somewhere the chancellor doesn't want to make a big deal our of it. It won't be a discliplinary issue, says he. I don't know about you, but I'm not going to allow any student to put my life and those of my other students at risk. I don't really want a letter in my file, but I'll risk a hundred of them before I'll risk the lives of humans in my classroom.

No one is going to be happy in the bizarre classroom with little or no natural interaction. No one is going to learn anything worthwhile in this unnatural gathering. It's like a particularly depressing chapter of The Twilight Zone. But hey, maybe parents will hate politicians just a little less for a few weeks.

Until, of course, people start getting sick and dying. Then they'll close the buildings right down again, just as they should've done in the first place.
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