Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

What is admin planning to do about the abysmally low teacher morale?

The sentence glared out at me from behind my dusty screen, daring me to send it into the chat. The grade level meeting was wrapping up so it was now or never. My finger hesitated over the dark blue arrow icon. I re-read the sentence for the fiftieth time and hit “Send.”

It appeared in the chat box. Just sort of hanging there.

“Am I missing anything else from the chat?” a voice droned. The normal stream of questions and comments had crawled to a standstill, meaning there…

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The email hits my inbox at 3:03 PM.

Contained within the superintendent’s weekly update are the dates students and teachers will be returning to school buildings. Nevermind that fewer than 50% of teachers have been fully vaccinated. No worries about the countless accommodation requests from teachers that remain ignored and unfulfilled. Or how the efficacy of our school’s HVAC systems remain shrouded behind cloaks of technical language and administrative prevarication.

All that matters is getting bodies into buildings.

The email erases everything. The brief solidarity built up among teachers over these last few months. The speeches to the school board…

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

I had to get out of the house immediately. There was no time to stretch or properly warm-up. Anxiety had hijacked my brain, shooting lava through my central nervous system. I laced up my running shoes, tightened the drawstring on my Cookie Monster pajama pants, and bolted for the door. I squinted from the afternoon sun as my fingers fumbled to find the right song on my phone. Before long my feet were pounding out a fevered beat against the pavement.

Normally I run in the morning. No one is out and it’s dark and everything is quiet. My mind…

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

“Can we talk to u after school today? The school keeps calling our parents to tell them we’re gonna have to transfer to another school if we don’t get our grades up. Is that legal? Can the school do that?”

It’s the end of first period. Roberto and his friends have stuck around to talk.

“Yep,” I respond to the screen. “I should be able to do that. I’ll call y’all into office hours after 8th period. Sound good?”

“OKAY bet!”

Meeting with these kids will be easy, I think. …

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What these kids need is some accountability. Some real consequences so they know we mean business. They’re all just sitting there playing video games and screwing around. They log into the meetings, mute their mic, turn off their camera, and go play on their phones or something. It’s a pandemic! It’s not like they have anything else to do.

Dear colleagues who regularly spew this sort of shit: Stop it. We get it; you’re the hardest teacher here. You wear the disdain of your students like a badge of honor.

I wish I could say I didn’t understand you. That…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Dear School Board,

Thank you for taking the time to listen to what I have to say.

I remain emphatic in my belief that schools should remain virtual. But that isn’t what I’ll focus on tonight. Instead I want to discuss a claim that has been central to the back-to-school bloc: the concept of “learning loss.” I will attempt to illustrate how this concept cloaks white entitlement and selfish individualism underneath a friendly veneer of pseudo-concern and paternalism.

Learning loss is the idea that today’s kids are “falling behind in the global marketplace” or even cognitively regressing because of virtual…

A pair of brown work boots stand amidst a sea of broken glass
A pair of brown work boots stand amidst a sea of broken glass
Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

It’s 2:48 PM and I’m scrubbing sippy cups at a desperate pace. Dishwater pools around my bare feet. Before I know what’s happening, tears are forcing their way out from behind my eyeballs. I cradle my head in my hands and give in to the convulsion that’s been demanding to be felt all day. I crumple onto the sink counter and gasp for air. The breakdown is short. Fifteen seconds later, I wipe my tears off on my new carpal tunnel brace and return to the pile of spent milk bottles.

Out of my earpods drone the disembodied voices of…

Photo by Khara Woods on Unsplash

I waved and smiled at my webcam, wishing a good weekend to the 25 black boxes populating my screen. I pushed away from my cluttered, makeshift desk and sighed. My first week of virtual teaching was done.

This reflective essay is my brain’s way of trying to make some sense of what just happened and what is to come. It’s my way of trying to force a formal beginning to the school year. Since the Corona virus has swallowed up the typical back-to-school routines that function as important transitions, this essay will have to do.

The only expectation I allowed…

Arrows pointing upwards against a wooden backdrop
Arrows pointing upwards against a wooden backdrop
Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

“You can’t change a school without changing the neighborhood” -James Baldwin

The decision to keep schools shuttered this September is the right call to make. If we force children and adults to return to their poorly ventilated and over-crowded buildings, people will die. No amount of creative scheduling or logistical wizardry will keep the virus from spreading throughout the community and snuffing out human life. This basic truth hasn’t stopped folks from demanding that schools re-open.

In the community where I teach, the announcement that schools would remain entirely virtual in the fall was met with a predictable range of…

Votive candles floating on a dark sea
Votive candles floating on a dark sea
Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

I hadn’t cried in so long that I almost didn’t recognize the sound. My tears pushed through the latticework of my fists, momentarily staining the cheap Ikea table supporting my elbows. In a paroxysm of release, my muscles and tendons finally began to accept what my synapses already knew: my career was over.

Over the last four months I had watched with growing fear as the pandemic systematically dismantled the professional career I had spent my adult life building. While I don’t know what will happen in the fall, I do know that it won’t be what I’ve always done.

Your Contractual Obligations

Closer than you think.

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