Thursday, December 24, 2020

After the Toughest Year Ever, We Get a Break

This has been the most stressful year in my memory for all of us working in schools. We've been through all sorts of indignity and inconvenience, but there's been nothing like 2020. Let's hope there's nothing like it ever again.

We're on a roller coaster of opening and closing. As Broadway went dark, as Long Island schools closed, pig-headed Bill de Blasio spent weeks dithering over what to do. He labors under the misconception that by keeping schools open, he can somehow rehabilitate his reputation. His rep is long past having swirled the bowl, but such is the drive of a tinhorn politician.

COVID is exploding around the country, worse than ever, but de Blasio manages to keep elementary schools open, at least the ones where they haven't yet detected the disease. While there hasn't been a huge outbreak in a school this year, De Blasio doesn't seem to understand that people who work in schools are human, and therefore averse to clear and present danger. 

While the use of masks and social distancing largely ameliorates a hazardous situation, it doesn't change how people feel. So there is a palpable terror among a lot of people working in schools. NY Times "reporters" can lecture us all they like, but the fact is public schools don't look like NY Times offices. I don't recall the last time I set foot in a clean school building, and children don't behave like college-educated professional reporters.

It's hard for me to see the value of sending children, especially young children, into masked and socially distanced classrooms. The entire notion seems terrifying, It's exacerbated by the nervousness, even terror of many teachers and school workers. Our fault, in general, is being too close to students, not avoiding them. If you're teaching in a building, you're restricted from doing what you signed up to do each and every day. Your ability to interact with students is sorely limited, and that's also true if you're teaching virtually. 

As if that's not enough, our ostensible leaders are wholly indifferent to us. De Blasio is delusional, seeing himself as heroic for opening buildings despite common sense. Cuomo thinks he's the second coming, our sole salvation from the lunacy in DC. However, he's raised the threshold for opening from 5 to 9%, and de Blasio, who set it at 3%, now says he might want to ignore it at 9. These are the kind of guys who put the "mess" in "messiah."

Back in March, COVID was such a dire emergency that Cuomo canceled Easter break. Students would interact socially, he said, if they weren't forced to study online. So spake the self-appointed Oracle of Albany. He labored under the delusion that a week of online school would somehow preclude that. Months later, we still wait for the apocalypse to pass so we can negotiate compensation for a week of work we hadn't agreed upon, and that's among the least of our concerns.

Stressed out of our gourds, and robbed of a respite, we worked through the week. Carranza, to his credit, offered an alternative to instruction. My students got to interact with a Congresswoman, a news reporter, and a panel of Asian women setting examples for success. Yet the same people who offered alternatives to same old, same old now say students will be hopelessly damaged if they don't get it on a regular basis.

I'm here to tell you that same old same old is off the menu in 2020. No matter what school looks like, no matter if you're in a masked classroom, on a computer, 2, 3, or 5 days a week, things are different. Anyone who doesn't know that risks being as ignorant as Cuomo, de Blasio, or Carranza. And anyone who thinks anything will compensate for this is delusional. The pandemic itself is our education, and it's educating everyone who has open ears and eyes. 

We now have a vaccine, and the end is in sight. It appears likely that September 2021 will find us back in our classrooms doing what we really do. Maybe the vaccine is our Christmas gift. A secondary gift is that our leaders no longer operate under the delusion that canceling a break will somehow help things. 

In one more year, de Blasio will disappear as conclusively as a wicked witch doused by a pail of water. Let's conserve our energy and enthusiasm and work to select and elect a mayor who's not insane. 28 years of this crap is more than enough. 

I wish all of you, especially those of you who work in schools, a joyous and relaxing week. I hope you make the very best of it. This shall pass, and we will come back stronger.

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