We Asked American Teachers To Tell Us What They Think Of Schools Reopening In The Fall, And Everyone Should Read Their Responses
"I'm beyond scared."
1. "I feel scared, overwhelmed, and uneasy."
"I’m being asked to effectively teach 24 kindergartners for seven straight hours and expect them to keep masks on. I’ve witnessed adults not being able to do that for more than 10 minutes. More than anything, I want to teach. It's just such a struggle to understand how it is feasible and safe in person right now. Between poor ventilation and inadequate space/supplies, I’m so worried for my students and other teachers. There is no right answer right now. Everything is coming with downsides and risks. We’re all first-year teachers again this year."
2. "We're not getting plexiglass shields, we're not checking kids' temperatures in the morning."
"I have to call the office to get someone to walk a first grader to the bathroom, and they can only walk clockwise around the building. They can't play on the jungle gym at recess because they aren't getting sanitized every day. It is much more traumatic for kids to go to school than to just stay home a little bit longer."
3. "I'm so beyond nervous and scared but also very torn."
"I'm an elementary school teacher at an all-girls school in Brooklyn, and I miss my students a ton. That being said, what I miss the most about them is their hugs. How am I going to console them when they're scared if I can't give them physical reassurance? How am I going to deal with getting to work if I have to take the subway? How much learning in the early elementary years can really be done six feet apart with masks on? I'm young and relatively healthy, but I'm afraid of giving COVID to my mom, whose age puts her technically at risk. I'm so scared and anxious and terrified."
4. "I feel like there is not a real concrete plan for returning amid the pandemic."
"I don’t feel comfortable, and have been waking up each night due to anxiety and stress. It's too soon! Classes should be virtual until we get this under control. I’m hoping I don’t catch it and live to see another birthday. I'm hoping my only son doesn't catch it because he has to attend school in person, and I have to work on campus. I’m tearing up thinking about losing him or him growing up without me. This is ridiculously unfair to everyone involved!"
5. "I work for a fairly affluent community and I am still terrified to go back."
"I know we have upgraded air filters and supplies to disinfect, but it is still so frightening. Part of the fear comes from parents needing to send in sick students so they can go to work. At least once a month, one of my students comes to me to say they had a temperature or threw up that same morning."
6. "I miss my students so much."
"They are so funny and sweet, and what make the job worth it. But here's why I'm worried: My state only has enough PPE and safety supplies for two weeks. Our classrooms have not been modified in any way yet — no plastic barriers, no social distancing materials. Also, our governor has announced that if someone tests positive, we are NOT quarantining the students and teachers in that class if they wore masks. I've already started to buy the supplies to keep me and my classroom kiddos as safe as possible. I just can't count on them to do it for me."
7. "I lost a coworker and friend to COVID-19 in March."
"Just going back into the building and not having her there is going to be devastating enough. I won’t be able to give students high fives or much-needed hugs, plus it’s predicted that half will learn from home. Honestly, I don’t know how to feel."
8. "Jump-starting the economy should not be my responsibility."
"Getting a will in my mid-20s because I am terrified of 'what might happen' is horrific and upsetting to my entire family. I love being a teacher. I miss being in the classroom and connecting with my students, but I have a small classroom with windows that don't open. My school is not going to enforce students to wear masks, despite the evidence that teenagers spread COVID as much as adults. I will be working in a petri dish of germs that I will then have to bring home."
9. "I teach at a college in Boston and I'm scared."
"My students come from all over the country and the world (depending on the changes in current travel policies). Besides fear of contracting COVID, I have a small child and a spouse with a pre-existing condition. I'm not sure how to teach a class of 40 in a massive room while muffled with a mask, and also teach theater digitally. My students aren't supplied with anything. I'm raising $1,000 to supply each of my classes with sanitizer, reusable face masks, disinfectant wipes, gloves, etc. because I have students who can't even afford binders."
10. "I live in Texas, and the state is threatening not to fund the schools if they don’t have students return to school in person."
"To me, it’s disgusting that it comes down to money. We teachers should not be forced or have our jobs threatened due to funding. We should have the right to protect ourselves as well."
11. "I work in special education, and on any given day, I visit up to four different schools in my district."
"If I contract COVID at one school, I’ve spread it to three other schools. As much as I miss my kids, I know that social distancing and mask wearing will be difficult for some of my more sensory-sensitive students. My district has opted for virtual learning until at least January, which I’m grateful for."
12. "I'm very scared about going back."
"I have asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure. I love what I do. I will be teaching pre-k and while it is so important for them socialize, not all of them have ever been away from home yet. They can learn the new ways of socialization, but it’s not the same and they cannot play with each other like they used to. I will do whatever is needed as always, but my family needs me too. I need the threat to be very low in order for school to start."
13. "I feel like I’m being sent to my death."
"I know that sounds dramatic, but I recently recovered from COVID and it was terrible. Also, I’m worried that since I was lucky the first time and survived, I won’t be as lucky next time. Also, my grandpa passed away from COVID and I’ve known of other people close to me who have passed and some without previous health conditions. COVID deaths are very real."
14. "There really is no right answer here."
"If we continue with virtual/distance learning, students from lower-income families and communities are going to fall further behind their peers. If we return to in-person teaching, thousands of teachers and community members are going to get COVID. I work in a a Title 1 public school, and I have seen firsthand the educational and emotional toll that distance learning took on all my students, and ESPECIALLY the students from low-income households. I also tutor privately for some wealthy families, and the reality is, those kids are doing just fine. So yes, COVID affects all of our children, but we can’t pretend that it affects them all equally. My greatest hope for this time is that this pandemic will reveal our most atrocious inequities when it comes to education."
15. "There really is no good solution until a vaccine comes out, and it’s super scary."
"I’m a Headstart teacher (full year/wrap around childcare) in Maine, and I’ve been back in the classroom for two weeks now. I feel extremely lucky to be working under Headstart through a local non-profit, as there are added precautions and a budget for purchasing necessary PPE and other equipment. We opened at a very limited capacity with daily screenings and temperature checks and stringent cleaning protocols. It feels safe so far as rates are extremely low in Maine, but it’s still tough to imagine continuing to teach safely if/when we return to full enrollment, and the risk is still there."
16. "I feel terrified and incredibly frustrated."
"The numbers were dropping and experts said it was too early to reopen the states, but they did it anyway and now everything is worse than before. I don't know how anyone thinks it's a good idea to go back to in-person teaching. Nobody WANTS to do virtual teaching, but I also don't want to risk getting sick and possibly dying. I don't want to bring the virus to someone I love. I don't want my students getting sick. I'm tired of teachers being the country's punching bags. I feel hopeless and like a lamb being led to slaughter."
17. "I don’t want to lose my job, but I also don’t want to bring the illness home to my family, especially my asthmatic 2-year-old."
"I’m a school counselor at a private school in the US South. We are scheduled for in-person return to school in a few weeks, and I’m scared. My school has lots of resources, extensive plans and procedures, all of the things I know my public school brethren don’t have in abundance and we STILL had a case of COVID during our summer camps. It’s just not safe and they are full steam ahead because they don’t want to risk parents taking their kids to other private schools in my city."
18. "The list of expectations for cleaning are absurd."
"However, we are also being told not to use too many cleaning supplies because my school can’t afford to keep replacing them. We returned to work July 13th and were given cloth masks, one scrub jacket that we have to wash nightly as my school refuses to wash it, and a face shield. The management claims they can’t afford to buy proper masks and is even refusing to contribute to our retirements now. None of the teachers feel safe, and the management isn’t listening to our needs."
19. "There's no way to make it safe."
"Even if we do go back, kids can’t socialize, work in groups, or even come sit with me one-on-one. I would have rather spent my summer working on ramping up distance learning than dreading the fall with no answers. People keep saying that teachers knew what we signed up for, and that we have to sacrifice ourselves for the economy. I’m sure my kid is gonna feel real good that him becoming an orphan helped the economy."
20. "I'm terrified."
"I teach students with moderate-to-severe special needs who won’t be able to wear masks and have no concept of social distancing or personal space. I have biters and spitters. They cough and sneeze in my face on a regular basis. If one of my kids gets it, we all get it. I want to go back to in-person learning, but not at the expense of more lives."
21. "I'm worried about running out of cleaning supplies."
"I don’t think people realize how much money teachers pay out of pocket for their own classroom decor, cleaning supplies, etc. In previous years, we (students and teacher) provided our own hand sanitizer and Kleenex. Will I be responsible for Clorox wipes and masks? A lot of stores still have limits on things like Clorox wipes, and it’s wild to think I’m going to have to choose between buying some for my home or for my classroom. It’s recommended teachers wear N95 masks under our 'cute' masks, but those are in high demand. I guarantee the schools will not be providing those for us. Maybe face shields...but only maybe."
22. "My school board has decided my life and the lives of my students aren’t worth the inconvenience of teaching online."
"I’m wearing a mask every day, and being asked to teach both online and in person without any additional pay. My school is taking our PTO if we have to take time off due to COVID exposure, while I am trying to save that time for maternity leave. Our government did nothing to prevent any of this, and I stand here asking if teaching is worth my health and family at the beginning of my second year. I chose this occupation to help students, not to be the government’s scapegoat."
23. "I wish people would remember that it is not just teachers and students at the school."
"Paraprofessionals, secretaries, principals, therapists, social workers, recess aids, cafeteria workers, nurses...the school can’t run if adults in any of these positions can’t come into work and have no subs."
24. "My dad and I both had COVID, and it was terrifying."
"There were days I didn’t know if either of us would survive. Now that we have tested negative and are 'better' (even though I’m still not feeling 100%), I can’t believe they are even considering opening the schools. We live in Arizona and our governor has handled this terribly. How can you have gyms, bars, and movie theaters closed to be safe, but open schools?!? This is also my first year teaching, and my district voted for a hybrid model, allowing kids to attend in person or online, which is a LOT more work for teachers. We start in two weeks and I’m praying for a miracle."
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.