Last week, we published a special feature on schools reopening around the country — and how students, teachers, administrators and parents are faring. Reader response, mostly from teachers and parents, was passionate and heartfelt. A selection is below.
Resilience. Teamwork. Community. Dedication. Opportunity. Hope. These are all reflected in the students, their families, the teachers, the administrators and the other staff featured in this article. Serving as a school board member, who also believes in these aspects of the educational process, this article reminds me of what to focus on in the din of noise emanating from the political culture wars that have spilled into local school board meetings. If we keep the children’s education and safety first, I believe amazing things will happen. You cannot read this article and feel otherwise. — Paula Bussard, Carlisle, Pa.
I am happy that these schools are having success. Meanwhile, in my school our testing participation rate is so horrifyingly low that a school leader used profanity to describe it. Our state has made it an opt-in system, and every step of the pool testing process is an absolute pain.
We are a small staff and already my boss is at home, very ill with a breakthrough case. I still need to remind 18 year olds to wear their mask properly every 30 seconds in classrooms full to bursting. My biggest class is 22, but a few colleagues have 39 in a room for 30. We have raised the issue repeatedly but our school leadership shrugs and says their hands are tied.
Fortunately the vast majority of our students are vaccinated. It could be worse. Butsome staff refuse to wear masks properly. We have been told to police our colleagues, and I have done so to unpleasant results. Again, school leadership shrugs.
It has been a difficult start to the year, to put it mildly. I am working hard every day to not be angry. — Claudia Lawry, Boston
My 71-year-old husband tutors students at Montana State University and with the optional use of masks here in this state I was a bit concerned about exposure to him this fall. He’s fully vaccinated but I worried about breakthrough infections. He masks up and he said all the students thus far whom he tutors are wearing their masks with him. — Susan E Weinberg, Billings, Mont.
While reading this article, I couldn’t help but compare it to my experiences teaching outside of the U.S. When Covid appeared in early 2020, the school year (which normally starts in March here) was pushed back for months. Because both of the schools I’ve taught at are smaller (under 200 students), I finally got to see my students for the first time in August of last year. And thanks to regular tracking, mask mandates for everyone, and now, the arrival of vaccines for educators and faculty, neither of my schools have faced a shutdown since.
I’ve taught after-school classes, I did a trick-or-treat event in the school’s English room last year, and this year I taught my elementary-age kids how to make slime during summer camp. We’ve had a blast, in person, masked and all. I see school districts and parents back at home constantly fighting over just having to wear masks and I wonder: Why does it have to be so difficult? This little piece of paper over our faces has given me and my kids a little more freedom back, if you ask me. — Kierra Boggs, Daegu, South Korea
I won’t be working as a substitute teacher again until schools require vaccinations and masks. The schools are desperate for subs, and I need the money, but it’s not worth getting sick. — Alexis Mills, Hereford, Ariz.
In Michigan, kids have been in school for two weeks. Covid-19 cases among kids ages 10-19 have jumped 40 percent in the past seven days. It doesn’t take an epidemiologist to note that the only variable that has changed is that kids are together in school. It will be a real-time study in how much risk is worth taking. — S., Detroit
Back to school in my second decade of teaching. My energy is high, I’ve missed students so much. This is why teachers teach, to see kids and be a part of the moments of learning that seem like little miracles.
But we have no room. We have more kids in the classrooms than ever before, not less. Kids who struggle to keep masks on take all my time. We don’t have windows that open. We don’t have enough devices so we don’t have students handling too much paper (and to help save the environment). We don’t have the mental health support for students or for us. I’m listening to trauma, after living my own. I’m so tired, so, so tired. I don’t know how much longer I can make it. I wish people would help us too. — Jessica, Queens