Health Safety Trump

Steven Singer: Distance Learning Is Horrible, Death is Worse

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Steven Singer is a veteran teacher in Pittsburgh. He loves being a teacher. But he loves being alive even more. He doesn’t think it will be possible to open the schools safely because our government has failed to take the steps necessary to control the pandemic. Other nations have. But we haven’t, and now we are paying the price.

Singer writes:

Nearly every other comparable country kept that downward trend. But not us.

The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Canada…

But the United States!?

Ha!

You think we can wear masks in public to guard against the spread of infection? No way! Our President politicized them.

Stay indoors to keep away from infected people? It’s summer and the beaches are open.

And – heck! – we’ve got to make sure restaurants and bars and other businesses are open, too, or else the economy will suffer…A sane country would come together and provide people with federal relief checks, personal protective equipment (PPE), protection from evictions, and universal healthcare. But we don’t live in that country.

Instead we’re all just going to have to suffer.

Not only you and me, but our kids, too.

Because they will have to somehow try to continue their educations through all this madness – again. And this time it won’t merely be for the last quarter of the year. It will be at the start of a new grade when everything is new and fresh and the groundwork is being laid for the entire academic year.

I don’t even know what to hope for anymore.

Would it be better to try to do a whole year of distance learning?

I speak from experience here – April and May were a cluster.

Kids didn’t have the necessary technology, infrastructure or understanding of how to navigate it. And there was no way to give it to them when those were the prerequisites to instruction.

Not to mention resources. All the books and papers and lessons were back in the classroom – difficult to digitize. Teachers had to figure out how to do everything from scratch with little to no training at the drop of a hat. (And guess what – not much has changed in the subsequent weeks.)

Let’s talk motivation. Kids can be hard to motivate under the best of circumstances, but try doing it through a screen! Try building a trusting instructional relationship with a child when you’re just a noisy bunch of pixels. Try meeting individual special needs.

A lot of things inevitably end up falling through the cracks and it’s up to parents to pick up the pieces. But how can they do that when they’re trying to work from home or working outside of the home or paralyzed with anxiety and fear?

And this is probably the BEST option, because what else do we have?

Are we really going to open the school buildings and teach in-person? While that would be much better from an academic standpoint, there’s still the problem of a global pandemic.

Kids will get sick. As time goes on we see increasingly younger people getting infected with worsening symptoms. We really don’t know what the long term effects of this disease will be.

And even if young people are mostly asymptomatic, chances are good they’ll spread this thing to the rest of us.

They’ll bring it home to their families. They’ll give it to their teachers.

Even if we only have half the kids one day and the other half on another day, that won’t help much. We’re still being exposed to at least a hundred kids every week. (Not to mention the question of how to effectively teach some kids in-person while the rest are on-line!)

Even with masks on – and can you imagine teaching in a mask!? Can you imagine kids wearing masks all day!? – those respiratory droplets will spread through our buildings like mad!

Many of us are in the most susceptible groups because of age or health.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to get back to my classroom and teach my students in-person more than almost anything – except dying.

I’d rather live a little bit longer, thank you… A crappy year of education is better than mass death.

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