Last Resort: A Tale from the Trenches
It is a known fact that the most important ingredient of a child’s educational success is to have a highly trained teacher in the classroom. We also know that the consistency of that caring adult factors greatly into the educational success.
So why in the world would anyone think that a district’s first reaction is to close schools?
One of my favorite things to do is talk with our staff members about what is really going on in their schools and classrooms. I ask what they are dealing with on a daily basis. The answers these days almost always sadden and often shock me.
Since we’ve returned from Winter Break, the level of frustration, burnout and even hopelessness has been higher than at any other time I’ve been in education. This attack based upon a clear lack of factual information does nothing to help.
Here’s the reality: we DO have administrators covering classes nearly every single day. We have reached out into the community to ask for more substitutes. They are not there. They are not coming.
Administrators are not acting out of fear. They are acting out of pragmatism. There are simply not enough people around for us to offer public education at the level we should. The duty to educate students is paramount, so we need our government leaders to find creative ways to get more people into teaching so we can educate our state.
Maybe an analogy would help. Let’s say you run a hospital. The best person to treat the patient’s illness is the nursing staff. But then, your nursing staff gets sick! What do you do? Bring in doctors and that certainly helps, but there aren’t enough of them. Bring in the hospital administration, but they don’t really know much about the illness, they just do the best they can.
Was that really a first reaction? We’ve been dealing with these shortages in staff and substitutes for months, years even. Now we have a spike in COVID cases and this is the result. It isn’t a first reaction, but truly a last resort to pull a teaching assistant or a principal to cover a class.
It’s offensive and short-sighted to think that the people in our districts aren’t doing everything they can to keep schools open and keep themselves healthy so it can remain open. But sometimes stuff happens. I hope that our fellow Oklahomans have patience and grace as our public school leaders make difficult decisions on a daily basis. They are being beaten up enough. It’s well past time to find concrete ways to be supportive.
THAT should be the first reaction.
January 13, 2022