With many states announcing the reopening of public schools in the fall, according to USA Today, teachers in these states are given no other option but to expose themselves to hundreds of students and put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19.
As much as anyone would wish that students could learn in person, reopening schools is part of a larger pattern of American politicians and society at large pushing our problems off to be solved by the country’s teachers.
“There are several other teachers like me that have health conditions, that are taking care of ill parents, or maybe their child is ill,” a Florida teacher challenging the school board’s decision to reopen said, according to NowThisNews. “They don’t have options.”
In New York City, hundreds of teachers, parents and students protested a plan that brought students and teachers back to school with a rotating schedule that they considered “not sufficient to protect everyone’s safety,” according to Gothamist.
The protestors voiced their concerns over the health of students, elderly family members and the teachers themselves. Teachers in particular are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than their students when schools reopen. About one-third of U.S. teachers are at an increased risk of having extreme symptoms from COVID-19 largely because of their age, according to Child Trends.
Even with valid concerns coming from teachers, seven states are currently allowed to open their schools, with many more planning to reopen under altered guidelines in the fall, according to Ballotpedia.
The data shows that as much as teachers express their rejection of plans to reopen, state and government officials ignore them in favor of appeasing the public’s idealistic desires. President Donald Trump has advocated for the reopening of schools as a part of a larger political message in regards to Coronavirus.
“SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” Trump tweeted on July 6.
Teachers feel unheard by politicians because they are continuously disregarded in favor of political gains. Even before the pandemic, in 2015, 94% of teachers responded to a poll stating that their concerns weren’t taken into account at the state or national level, according to the Center on Education Policy.
The pandemic is just one example of teachers being ignored.
In 2018, in light of frequent mass shootings, notably a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students, that resulted in public outcry, Donald Trump suggested arming school teachers as a solution, according to The Guardian.
While this proposal resulted in a lot of criticism and was never fully actualized, the US government was not able to make significant changes to gun violence that could adequately protect students and teachers. Instead, teachers are left to look for signs of traumatized students and effectively protect themselves and their students independently.
Large class sizes, a lack of school supplies and low pay relative to their education level are all obstacles that teachers face in educating students every day. Teachers willingly take on these challenges in a noble attempt to provide quality education to all of America’s students.
However, from facing a pandemic to fighting gun violence, America refuses to thank them or even acknowledge their concerns. We continuously ask them to make sacrifices for the greater good without addressing their opinions.
In the midst of a pandemic when our society is shifting abruptly in many ways, we should also adjust the way we treat our teachers.