Sunday, August 29, 2021


 On the front page of today’s Baltimore Sun, an article by Lillian Reed and Liz Bowie.

The headline might just as truthfully read: teachers worry as schools reopen. Administrators worry as schools reopen. Health care professionals worry as schools reopen. Community leaders worry as schools reopen. And, although they merit only a second-hand reference in this article: students worry as schools reopen.

There may be people who are not worried. I don’t know any of them.

Although this article focuses on the Baltimore City School System, much of the information is relevant here in Howard County and elsewhere. In particular, this statement from Sonja Santelises:

 “It is disappointing that our nation has not come together to make our schools safe for all children.” - - Sonja Santelises, CEO, Baltimore City Schools.

This is a careful statement that speaks volumes. I can think of many other pointed ways to say this that involve strong language and scathing accusations. That is why I am a blogger and not the CEO of a school system. 

Even in affluent Howard County there are clearly ways we could have come together to make our schools safe for all children but the “politics” of COVID-19 and the open faucet of misinformation from angry parents have made it an ugly and disheartening minefield over the last year and a half. If you wonder what we were doing instead of coming together to make our schools safe for all children, certain Facebook groups paint a pretty thorough picture. 

But here we are. Tomorrow is the first day of school. We can’t go back. There is no “do-over.” Already I see a tension at work between the school system’s decision to be “business as usual” back when COVID was in a lull, and parent’s expections that the schools should be responding to the health conditions unfolding right now at this moment. Yes, we all hoped it would be better than this, but, it isn’t.

Now what?

Institutions are not nimble. But they shouldn’t be immovable. Responses to parent advocacy regarding outdoor eating and indoor air quality make me hopeful. It will take continued advocacy once the students return to face-to-face learning to keep those priorities at the forefront. This is not a time for anyone to slack off or let their guard down.

One statement in the Sun article went against the grain for me.

“Personally, I am bored sitting in a chair at home. This is a performance career.” - - Jamilla Fort, teacher, Cecil Elementary School. 

I am not here to judge any teacher’s experience during the pandemic. Anyone who got in there and did the work for their students, with their students, has my profound respect. But I can say that my husband, also a teacher, never exhibited any signs of boredom. Frustration, anxiety, grief, exhaustion - - yes. Boredom, no.  Then it occurred to me. This, too, is a careful statement that speaks volumes. It’s impossible to know the depth of this teacher’s experiences from one newspaper quote.

I absolutely agree with this teacher that it is the human interaction of teaching that makes the work worthwhile. I see many of my friends who are teachers experiencing the anticipation of returning to that hands-on, interactive, collaborative process that they have missed so much. 

Oh, how we all want it to succeed. 

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