One of the first beats I ever covered for a newspaper was Fairfax County Public Schools for The Washington Post in the early 1980s.
I learned something almost immediately: Despite enjoying enviable job security, teachers are notoriously reticent about speaking to the press. They worry that if they’re critical of what’s going on in their schools they’ll be fired. Or reassigned. Or shunned in the faculty lounge.
So most teachers just keep their heads down and keep teaching their students regardless of the difficult situations in their buildings.
But even that hasn’t been easy since Gov. Ralph Northam closed the schools last March. Many teachers and students were unprepared for full-time virtual learning. They certainly weren’t prepared to reopen in the fall. Some schools are holding in-person classes, others reopened and are now closed, still others are struggling with the 10-month-long failed experiment in distance learning.
When Virginia Beach School Superintendent Aaron Spence announced recently that he wants to get kids back in class, despite rising infection rates, he cited sharp increases in mental health referrals among students along with sharp declines in academic achievement.
An alarming combination for one of Tidewater’s best school systems. Nevertheless, he is meeting with much resistance.
Meanwhile, teachers are dealing with kids who don’t login for classes, who are falling hopelessly behind in their classwork and those who struggle with difficult family situations they can no longer escape on weekdays.
It’s time to tell their stories.
I’m asking public school teachers, wherever they may be, to tell me about the current state of public education in the time of COVID: The good, the bad and the heartbreaking.
I promise names and identifying information will be kept strictly confidential as I attempt to put together an honest snapshot of what’s going on in our public schools.
Teachers, I know it’s not in your nature to talk out of school, but the public has need to know. This is your chance to speak up without fear of retribution.
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.