Rants, Work Stuff

A COVID-19 WFH rant

The past week has been filled with meetings and emails about opening school safely, and what will happen in our libraries. One peer school has moved stacks, added tables and chairs and is preparing for students who have “frees” to be assigned to the library. Others are figuring out how to have students browse virtually and then do “curbside” pick-up of their chosen books; they’re also buying boxes or crates to quarantine books for a period of time (ranging from 24-72 hours). Schools themselves are revisiting how to provide instruction under a number of scenarios, from everyone on campus to everyone at home. One day school has insisted that parents/families remain within commuting distance, no taking off for a vacation home/grandparents home since students will be required to be in school if it’s safe, no hybrid learning to outside locations.

Now, I’ll stipulate that my school and these peer schools are privileged. We’re independent schools and have resources and flexibility that public schools do not have. In March we helped students get wifi access and ensured that their laptops were capable of doing the work from wherever they were (some students were in Asia, others in Europe or Africa). That’s not something that a public school system can do as easily. We also have the resources to ensure that all faculty can get the professional development they need to provide instruction both on-campus and off, to students both on-campus and off.

However, virtually every communication talks about student safety or building preparation to ensure student safety. Obviously, faculty will benefit from that but there’s very little that is actually faculty (and here I’m including all adult workers) focused. To be honest, I’m concerned. While things with my health are better, they’re not fixed. I still have problems that could be seriously exacerbated by even a “minor” case of COVID. And I’m not alone.

Over the past two days, there have been several articles and tweets that have made me go “grrrr”. To paraphrase Bette Davis, fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy post.

First, there was an article in the NYTimes, which got retweeted and Jennifer responded:

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I feel for her, I really do. For me, the takeaway from that article was this:

And lest you think it’s everyone vs. teachers, I cannot imagine a group this situation is less fair to. Teachers are supposed to teach in the classroom full-time but simultaneously manage remote learning? Even in non-pandemic times, teachers would tell you that they already work unpaid overtime on nights and weekends, just planning and grading. Where, exactly, will the extra hours come from? For teachers with their own school-age children, the situation isn’t just untenable, it’s impossible.

As a teacher, I felt compelled to comment on Stephanie’s tweet:

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Then, this morning, another NYTimes article about college professors (many of whom are unionized, unlike independent school teachers) not wanting to teach in person for safety reasons.  This tweet from Ken says it all:

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And as if on cue, WaPo has a perspective piece that points out We can reopen schools in the fall — if we close bars and gyms now. Look, I get it: we’re all stressed and going stir-crazy.  Staying home virtually all the time makes you a little crazy, especially if you have children or parents or a partner—they want more attention, more reassurance (ok, you want them too, admit it).  If your schedules don’t mesh, they don’t understand why you aren’t interested in rewatching a binge of The Office.  For the first time, you get to see what they kind of do all day, and you can hear the annoying voice of their department head or realize that yes, their colleagues are just a bit crazy.   And they get to see all of that for you.  So if there’s an opportunity to go to a bar, or a restaurant, or movie, and escape that space just for a little while, why not take it?

Here’s the problem: you can’t do that and open schools safely.  You can’t do that and ensure that the teacher(s) that will at least get those rugrats and sullen teenagers out of your space for a few hours will be healthy and able to do their jobs safely and healthily.

I’ll leave you with one final tweet:

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