Calling All Teachers

by Kerry Dougherty

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:  [email protected]


This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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7 responses to “Calling All Teachers

  1. I had the same experience as a reporter and talk show host. They have their finger on the pulse of the educational system and what kids learn and know, yet either because of their own reticence or probably the “protection” of their guardians in the school administration, we were never allowed to really hear what they see and think. We must open up a line of communication, now more than ever. I hope teachers, both ones who want to be in the classroom and those who don’t, accept your invitation.

  2. Good idea, just as long as you realize that any conclusions you might draw from a your solicitation, especially since you have already claimed that the subjects are unwilling and hesitant, is going to be skewed mightily to view you have espoused.

    Please have fun with it, but don’t delude yourself or others with the results. You will not get a random response.

    • Notice she said: “The good, the bad and the heartbreaking.”.

      She’s asking for comments, not doing a polling.

      • But it’s a biased sample anyway. It could be interesting just for the responses, but to publish them, you should pick relatively good, bad, and heartbreaking. It’s illustrative but not definitive.

  3. BTW, sailed one Sunday practice time on Merrimac out of HYC and my son borrowed Mark Arnold’s national championship Hampton once for a Willoughby Bay race. I’d learned on Lightnings in the Potomac and was a bit surprised the Hampton behaved a bit differently than I expected as we dumped it 3 times practicing for the race.

    Did Gov.’s cup twice, once with nearby tornado off OPC near the starting line when we were doing our MOB drills. I’ve even sailed from Sausalito around Alcatraz on a friend’s beautiful Choy Lee.

    Also miss Havre de Grace. Annapolis. Solomans. Tangier. St Mikes. Tred Avon. Patapsco. Rose Buddies at Eliz City. Pamlico and Albemarle. Gloucester. Queen’s Creek. Horn Harbor. Did ’em all and more.

    Enjoy your trip south. Lots of memories. Sigh…

  4. They probably wanted their annual teacher contracts renewed.

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