Friday, August 21, 2020

De Blasio's Circus

I've got an inbox full of worry, and I'm as worried as anyone. Full disclosure--I've asked for and received an accommodation to teach from home. I've encouraged everyone I know to do the same. If you have applied and been denied, or ignored, here's a form you can fill out to get help from the UFT. 

Meanwhile, we're facing de Blasio's plan, which relies heavily on teachers who don't actually exist. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, says the mayor. Can you imagine making such nonsensical arguments at work? At your home?

Here's a story about a teacher who's going to go in, but also live in a tent in her backyard so as not to infect her family. I know people who are planning to live in hotels rather than risk hurting family members. I know people who will take unpaid leaves rather than potentially sicken or kill their elderly or immuno-compromised relatives. 

When you look at his actual plan, it's really hard to figure how it works. I know of one school in which students will attend once every four days. That means they will mostly be in once a week. The other days, they will get asynchronous instruction. It's hard for me to imagine teaching like that, but it's good enough for Mayor de Blasio. And what will happen on day five, when students are actually in the building?

Well, everyone will be socially distanced, as mandated by the state, except when they aren't. Kids tend to move, you know, and not always when you ask them to. Mayor de Blasio may not be aware. The teacher desk and student desks will all face in the same direction, as per the state directive. Perish forbid we should face one another, because that would potentially direct droplets at one another. It's a real concern. 

This teacher, however, is not persuaded that arrangement lends itself to learning, let alone inspiration. As a language teacher, it's my job to make students love our language. I want them to touch it, to feel it, to live it. I don't really want them chained to chairs and terrified to move, let alone talk. I don't want them in some unnatural position that it's my miserable job to enforce. 

Now I'll be the first person to admit that remote learning sucks. There is a human connection in what we do, it's key to making education work, and it's severely watered down when it's online. The problem is, in de Blasio's circus, we've all got our faces covered like clowns, and it's hard for us to take one another seriously. I'd say it's actually worse than remote learning.

The UFT safety demands are reasonable. If it's too much trouble for de Blasio to make students and staff safe, he ought not to open buildings at all. I have no idea why the mayor isn't willing to meet our demands. In fact, if he needs more time, we could go entirely remote until such time as he could get his act together. 

It's unconscionable to risk the health of New York City's children and school staff for no good reason. Since the city feels, without aid, it's going to have to go all remote anyway in October, why put us through the time and trouble of changing up everything in a matter of weeks? That's crazy.

Crazier still is moving full speed ahead without testing. We don't let students in without vaccinations for diseases. Until there is a vaccination for COVID, it's ridiculous to admit them, or us, without testing to make sure no one infects others. I don't see any advantage in de Blasio's plan, let alone its reliance on teachers who don't actually exist to do online education while we teach a handful of students.

In fact, I don't see any advantage to de Blasio's plan over remote education. We could all teach from our homes, unmasked, and have more and better interaction with our students than we would in De Blasio's circus. The very least he can do is meet UFT's demands. In fact, hell seems to have frozen over as the NY Daily News editorial board wrote in our support. Most of the city council opposes his plan. Who's left to support him?

I guess that's for de Blasio to figure out. I won't be his clown, and I'll walk with my UFT brothers and sisters before I endorse a million kids and a hundred thousand staff going in to risk their lives for no good reason.

Until then, as they say, not my monkeys, not my circus. 

(Thanks to Smo Stitchy for the embroidery.)

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