S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Welcome to a special episode of Mom and Dad are fighting for Thursday, July 16th. A mom and dad are fighting. Teacher roundtable doing something a little bit different this week. Jameela and Elizabeth are off.
S2: It’s just me. I’m Dan Coifs. I’m a writer at Slate, the author of the book How to Be a Family Man, the dad of Lyra, who’s 15, and Harper, who’s 12. We live in Arlington, Virginia. If you’re looking for triumphs and fails, we’re moving those to the Slate plus segment this week, because this week our whole episode is devoted to the coming school year.
S1: We’re basically T minus four weeks until some kids start going back to school in some fashion. But what will school look like? It’s still extremely up in the air. Some districts are attempting business as usual. L.A., among others, has gone all virtual. Some places are giving parents options. The messaging is all over the place. My school district made one announcement in June and just an hour ago send everyone an email completely changing their minds. Obviously, many parents want their kids to go back to school. We want them to learn. We want them to see their friends. We want them to be out of the fucking house so we can work. At this point, even a lot of kids are bored and ready to get back to normal or however close to normal we can get. But we’re also scared for their health, for our health, for everyone’s health. And we’re angry that the country hasn’t done the shit it needs to do to make school a priority. The Trump administration has made it clear how they feel about the issue from the president’s tweet to Betsy DeVos, threatening schools that don’t open full time with defunding. But it sort of seems like there’s one group out there that I haven’t heard as much from as I might want to, and that’s the teachers. What do teachers want their jobs to look like in the coming school year? What kind of guidance are they getting? What kind of options do they have? And how are teachers talking with each other about the position that our country has put them in? I’ve asked for teachers to join me this week to talk candidly about what it’s like to be a teacher facing the great unknown of fall 2020. They’re all writers for Slate. Ask a teacher column. So let’s welcome them all. Here to start with, we have Cassie Sano, who is an early childhood special education teacher in Albany, New York. Hi, Cassie. Hi. We have Brandon Hersi, who teaches second grade in federal way. Washington is also on the Seattle school board. Hey, Brandon, what’s going on? Happy to be here. We’ve got Matthew Dicks, who’s a fifth grade teacher in West Hartford, Connecticut. Hey, Matt. How you doing, Dan? And we have Amy Scott, an eighth grade English teacher in Durham, North Carolina. Hi, Amy. Hi, Dan. Thank you all very much for being here. You’re all talking to your colleagues and friends. Let’s just go through each of you. And I want you to give me to start off in three words or fewer. How would you characterize the emotional state of teachers right now? Matt, you go first.
S3: Well, my wife is also a teacher, a kindergarten teacher. And today she told me she was frightened and angry. I think I probably possess a little bit of those two things as well as hopeful. I think I’m more hopeful, frankly, than my wife is.
S4: All right, Cassie, I’m going to go with frustrated, scared and sad.
S5: Brandon refused this book.
S6: Amy, I was going to say disappointed, but given what I know about the Trump administration, I’m not disappointed because you’d have to have an expectation and are going to be disappointed. And so I guess I’ll say I’m disappointed by the idea that we could be going back to school safely based on other countries plans and outcomes.
S1: And one that’s more than three words, but I’ll take it. All right. So can each of you please tell us where your school system stands right today, where you as a teacher, what you know about your fall 20/20 recording Tuesday, July 14th. Maybe they made a decision yet. Maybe they haven’t. But let’s start with Brandon. What is your school district plan for the coming year?
S7: Yeah. So in federal way, we have not received any real update upon what school is going to look like. But we do know that we’re gonna be expected to come back in some way, shape or form. I think that we are playing around with the idea of the AP model. And for those of you who might not know, it’s this idea that 50 percent of the kids will come to school on Monday, Tuesday. The other 50 percent will come on Thursday, Friday maybe. And Wednesday will be kind of a chicken day, mostly virtual. While a lot of folks are talking about this model as cases continue to spike and we’re starting to see more and more documents internally and externally come out of the CDC around how dumb of an idea it is to send kids back in any real strong capacity, especially in terms of protecting cases from spiking again. Those decisions are changing, as you alluded to just earlier. Dan, you just received an e-mail not too long ago, completely changed their mind. And I don’t know what the context is of that. But when I say that, like a lot of us are confused as fuck, I honestly mean that because it is really difficult to know in what direction I need to be heading as an educator without having a clear and consistent player from the district.
S1: Amy, what’s the story in Durham? What’s the plan right now?
S6: So the school where I am right now, it’s planning to be fully remote K eight for 30 days and then to go to what Brandon was talking about with like they A.B., you know, Monday, Tuesday, they would sanitize on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday kind of thing. It is still up in the air and nothing is. Board approved. And who knows, things could change in a moment.
S1: Matt, what’s the story in Connecticut?
S3: Well, my kids and the district that I teach are different, but the plans are essentially the same right now. As of this moment, we’re going back full time. We’re in Connecticut. So the infection rate is actually the lowest in the country right now. And I have not seen a person in public not wearing a mask where I live. So people are taking it very seriously here. And as a result, we’re in a better position, I think, than in a lot of places in the country. So we are offering full time school at school and also full time distance learning and parents can choose between the two. I think that’s going to be important anyway, because we’re going to have to have distance learning for any child who can’t sort of be in a space because they’re compromised in some way or teachers, frankly. But I think what I’ve been telling my teacher friends is that sort of everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. You know, that famous Mike Tyson quote, because we have a thousand teachers in our school district. And what will happen? One hundred percent will be a kid or a teacher will die over the course of the school year. And when a kid or a teacher dies, everything is going to change. And so I think whatever we’re thinking is going to happen now is is lovely. And I think it’s fine to put plans into place. But I think it’s going to be a very moving target that we’re going to constantly probably be missing along the way.
S1: Cassie, what’s the story in Albany?
S8: I’m in a bit of a different boat than everyone else here because I teach pre-school. So I don’t work in one district. I work with. I’m in my class. This past year was three. But up to 20 different school districts at my school. We’re in the capital region, which is a couple of counties in upstate New York. Our infection rate is low. We’re at about one percent and things are OK here. It’s funny, though, because the way you frame the question, what is the plan now? And Ibraheem, it’s like summer school because Albany County and Columbia County in Brunswick, Canada, the three that I work with primarily are all open in person for summer school in some capacity. Not every school. My preschool where I work because we work with a lot of immunocompromised kids, we are not open in person fully. We are looking at options for some amount of outdoor in-person therapy for speech or for physical therapy or for O.T. But right now, every district that I’m working with, they are all submitting plans to the Department of Health. They are all in the process of figuring out how to open in-person.
S4: They’re all very secretive. None of them will say what their plan is. Nobody has any information out. But I think for a lot of them, it’s either gonna be like an B plan like Brandon and Andy mentioned, or some kind of fully in person for the smaller.
S8: I work with towns that have like 3000 people and I’m so like the smaller schools might be able to get away with it. Right now we are, hypothetically speaking, operational for summer school. And like I am holding my breath waiting for the news that something has happened.
S1: And it’s terrible that holding your breath, waiting for the news that you have mentioned and this question of what happens, you know, when someone dies that Matthew brought up, I think seems very crucial, because one thing I don’t know about and that no one in my kids’ school district is giving me any sense of is that there is a plan for what happens when, say, someone test positive when a teacher test positive or a student or a student’s dad, which is another way of saying, is there any kind of benchmark for when a school shuts down or changes their policy inside of your districts where you teach? Have you been given any kind of guidance as to what that future planning looks like or is it all sort of up in the air still?
S3: I know that in our school district, one of the goals we have is to sort of bubble kids. And so the teacher and the students are going to remain as isolated from the rest of the school as possible so that if I have a class of 20 kids and one of my kids or I or one of the parents tests positive that group of kids theoretically can then enter quarantine. And if the teacher is healthy, we can begin distance learning for the two to three weeks that we’re going to decide quarantine is necessary and then come back into the school, theoretically having not contaminated anyone else in the process. I stress the word theoretically because I’m not quite sure how that is possible given the physical space that we occupy. But, you know, I think it’s a reasonable attempt by the school district to maintain school in the event that someone tests positive. By the way, I mean, the testing positive. I mean, at this point, I know that it’s seven days to get a positive test in our state right now. So if you actually get a test, it is seven days later. I mean, we saw the mayor of Atlanta. It took her eight days to get a test positive. And in that time, she managed to infect her family and half her staff unknowingly, simply because it took eight days for the mayor of Atlanta to get her test back. So I’m not quite sure how testing is going to make any difference when it comes to schooling.
S8: There has been some guidance from I think it was the New York State Department of Health that children at. Some may be at higher risk of infection, not because of anything inherent. We’re getting a diagnosis, but because young child with autism are more likely to be mouthing things, looking things, putting them out on faces, etc.. And one of the reasons why they tell us that although the state has allowed us to be open, our school is not going to open. We knew that we were going to get some pap backlash.
S4: And so we all sort of demanded reasons from the admen so that when the parents yell at us that we’re not open, even though we if we could, we would have a reason. And I mean, they just can’t think of a way to make it safe.
S8: You know, I taught in a class with a kid with PICA who put things in his mouth that he wasn’t supposed to. And that was, I think, safety concern all unto itself. But now suppose that that child had gotten an infection from his older siblings, both of whom are school age. And then he brings that infection into his classroom and fights every toy that’s out. And then another kid touches it before I can sleep mal up like what is to happen? And my school didn’t have an answer that they thought was safe. And that is part of why we have nobody yet.
S7: I mean, I think that we also need to really give space to the socio economic and racial barriers and issues that come along with thinking about schooling in the traditional model. And by traditional, I mean in person, because what we know based on our students, especially those of color, especially black and brown students, is that a lot of times when we are thinking about coming back, we’re only looking at this pandemic from a medical standpoint. But we’re also facing a pandemic of racism. Right. We’ve seen this really highlighted through the senseless murders and police brutality that have happened over the course of the past few weeks. And as we think about the safety of our children, what I’m really concerned about is that I know for my students, a lot of their families don’t and didn’t have the luxury of quarantining. They still had to go to work. So if we are sitting kids back home, a lot of our students also are living in multigenerational family settings. So you’ve got grandma, you’ve got you’ve got uncle and a lot of cases, even great grandma or, you know, just family members who were elderly, who are staying with them and providing care while their parents can go to work and afford to put food on the table. Right. So we just really need to keep in mind all of the not only racial disparities that come along with access to health care, but also we need to be prepared as a school system because we found that honestly, we are the social safety net for children where where they get food, we really get education and a lot of places where where they get counseling or where they get clothing. And if we are not taking all of those things into consideration while we are reopening, not to mention all of the socio emotional things that come along with, you know, potentially having to wear masks in the classroom or not being able to have consistent contact with your teacher. Those types of things have much more negative effects on communities of color than they do on their white counterparts. And if we don’t have a clear and consistent plan for how we’re going to address those disparities, the opportunity gap is just going to continue to widen, especially in these large metropolitan cities like Seattle, L.A., which has already had the courage to cancel school, and especially New York.
S1: It’s so hard, too, because especially on the question of these particular disparities, it seems like that problem cuts both ways. And the question of whether you want to try to take a bunch of risks and open up school anyways, or you want to cut your losses and make sure that school is closed for safety reasons. Right. Because to do the latter, you’re cutting that safety net for all of those kids who depend on school, for those, you know, Life-Giving things right. At the same time, you’re exposing them to a much greater level of risk, which is then transmitted right down the line to those families they live with, the ones who maybe can’t afford to quarantine and the way that white families can. It seems to me that no one has been able to quantify, you know, either through research or even through argument what the answer is for how to best serve students who both need school and are most threatened by in-person school. Now, that’s not really a question. That’s just the first pressing. And I guess my honest that’s the word. So this is a maybe a simple question. And I apologize for being a little bit blunt, but I think it’s useful for people to hear this. The four of you teachers who to some extent may be in a classroom sometime the next six months. Are you afraid for your own health?
S5: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah. And a, we have health insurance. I think that’s the real rub. You know what I’m saying? I don’t know. I think that because again, I get to see it from both sides. Right. Being a board member and an educator, the way that we are having these conversations, it’s all theoretical. Right. But when it gets down to the actual implementation of it, these plans fall apart in a lot of the documents that I see, not only regarding PPE especially, and I can tell you right now, districts are going to fight tooth and nail not to provide the adequate PPE needed to do.
S7: Our job effectively. We’re talking face masks, probably not just face. I’m talking like shields, like plastic ones, or at the very least providing in 95 matched for every teacher, multiple ones a day. And I can only imagine how many times I’m going to hear about my students, like saying, like, so-and-so has got my mask. So I’ll put my magic. Now, why those things are going to get all mixed up and I’m not going to facilitate as a teacher. I’m not putting my hands anywhere near that. And our school doesn’t provide germinates or any type of hand sanitizer. We have soap and water. Some schools don’t even have streets.
S4: I think, too, depending a lot on your grade levels. Before a top pre-school, I taught middle school and I loved by middle schoolers dearly. But they were always like licking each other or likes sticking their fingers in each other’s ears or, you know, like dumb kids things. And then on the flip side, I went from that to my preschool where I walked out to the playground. I leaned over to see what some kid petting. I had my eyes on this day and she sucking on another kid’s finger in the corner of the playground. And I’m thinking like adults going to do that, too. In what scenario are you are you going to keep kids spreading normal germs? Setting aside the fact that we’re not going to have masks and if even if you do get them, parents are going to complain or you can’t get preschoolers to wear them or whatever, like I mean, even with the mask on, if they’re taking each other’s masks in their mouths, you’ve defeated the purpose of the mask. You’ve got it. Which makes it less effective. You spread the germs like it’s just it’s not practical. Like, I’m lucky. The school that I work with, the administration, was brave enough to tell us to our faces like we don’t think it’s feasible because I think a lot of schools are going to pretend, oh, well, you know, I think if you guys just keep them from licking each other, it’ll be fine. But if we keep people from licking each other, we wouldn’t find out.
S3: It’s the students I think, that concern me the most and my own children who I worry about the most. And frankly, my wife, who is a kindergarten teacher, I worry about her a great deal because kids come to kindergarten and the crying on the first day of school and the only way to get them to stop crying is you hug them. And my wife is trying to figure out what is she going to do to crying children who are leaving their parents for the first time. And you say, please stay six feet away. I’m behind some plastic. And so here you stand over there and cry. But I do think as teachers, one of the things we do have to really remember is there are a lot of people doing this work already in dangerous circumstances. So I think it’s fine for us to be afraid and angry. I just remind myself that that lady at the grocery store today who checked me out, she is putting herself at risk in the same way I may be putting myself at risk and I’m not happy about it, but I tend to try to focus on the safety of kids, which I think is going to be a disaster in many ways for all the reasons we’ve described.
S1: All right, everyone, let’s see. Quick break. You guys drink some water? I’ve got some business to discuss with Slate listeners. If you are missing, Jameela, on today’s show, you are in luck because you can get your Jameela dose to night. Thursday, July 16th at seven o’clock Pacific Time, 10:00 Eastern. Is the world premiere of Jamila’s brand new Slate live show. It’s called The Kids Are Asleep. Tonight, we’ll be talking with comedian Roy Wood Junior. But every week, she’s going to have a new guest talking about parenting, talking about what real life is really like, talking about the news, talking about substance abuse. I assume it’s going to be insightful. Funny. You definitely should miss it. It premieres tonight, Thursday, July 16th, at seven o’clock Pacific, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. To catch it. Go to Slate’s Facebook page and we’ll also put links in our episode notes. It’s called The Kids Are Asleep. It’s going to be so good. Catch it while you’re on Facebook. You should also take a second to join our active, moderated parenting community filled with people giving and receiving parenting advice. Just search for sleep parenting on Facebook. It’s a great bunch of folks and the ones who aren’t great. We ban to stay up to date on all of Slate’s parenting content and show sign up for Slate’s parenting newsletter. It’s the best place to be notified about all our parenting stuff, including care and feeding mom that dad are fighting and much, much more. Plus, you know, it’s just a fun personal e-mail for me. Directly to your inbox. Sign up at Slate dot com slash parenting email. All right. Back to our roundtable. Many of you brought up how all these plans are theoretical and we’re going to see breakdowns in them. And it sort of seems to me that the breakdowns are happening even now as plans are in theoretical form. And so the example I give is here where I live in Arlington. A few weeks ago, the district announced what the plan was and it was the A B plan. Basically, both parents had a choice. You could choose between the Abe plan where your kid has two days in school and three days at home, or you could choose full time distance learning. And then about an hour ago today, Tuesday, a brand new e-mail went out from the superintendent saying basically, nope, we changed it. School is going to be all virtual for everyone, at least for first quarter. They didn’t say why, but my hunch, based on what I have heard from teachers around here and people associated with education, both here and in Fairfax County, is that it has to have had something to do with the huge gulf between the number of parents who wanted their kids to go to school and the number of teachers who felt safe going into that school environment because they asked all the teachers, well, what do you want to do? Do you want to teach remotely or do you want to go into class? Are you all seeing this kind of disparity between parents expectations or needs and teachers expectations or needs and the places where you teach?
S5: Yeah, it’s like, yeah. What’s really, really interesting is that as a union member from the first day that I stepped into a classroom, we’ve been advocating this just for folks to come see what it’s like to be a teacher, especially in an elementary classroom nowadays, and then to have to fight tooth and nail for hey reasons to just get to a living wage. And now that we have a situation to where kids are at home and parents are having to step into that role as basically support educators in a lot of cases, primary educators, in terms of academics, we’re hearing that narrative change a little bit. Right. Because you’re getting a whole scope of what a teacher does, not only an instance of caring for your child, but 30 other children as well. And so what we’re starting to see is that while there is this period push to get back into school in some way, again, this goes back to what we talked about previously. We as teachers know that that is not safe. It is just literally not safe because we see it on a day to day basis. And I don’t know how we’re going to thread that needle between parent expectations and good policy, especially in terms of health care. But I think that your district did the right thing. Dan, I think that your district realized that, you know, for our workforce, this is not the best move, especially seeing how many cases are beginning to pop up across the country at alarming rates.
S6: I have a concern, too, about teaching in a different district from where my kids are. Are those plans going to align? You know, right now, the district where my kids are supposed to go, they’re going to go back tentatively in late August and I’m going to have 30 days of remote. But then let’s say that that district shuts down and mine doesn’t. Then what do I do? You know, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that doesn’t happen.
S3: There will be teachers who just say, I’m out or there will be teachers who say my district is sending my kids back. I’m not sending my kids back. So I’m going to stay home and homeschool my kids this year. You know, have a nice time. And frankly, if teachers do that, I don’t think there’s going to be any concern that there won’t be jobs next year for them. There’s going to be plenty of teaching jobs coming up in the coming years based upon what is happening now. So if you want to take a year off and homeschool your own children, teachers are going to do that. We’re gonna be short-stay. In many, many circumstances, don’t even start to think about substitute teachers, can you imagine the situation when a teacher gets sick? Because as soon as you have the sniffles and Cauvin, you can’t like muscle through. You can’t say I’ve got a cold, but I’m going to go to school if you have anything. You can’t go to school anymore. And just the dearth of substitute teachers alone is going to is going to collapse the system.
S6: And what they pay substitutes. I can’t imagine being a sub student being like, I’m going to risk my life for, you know, what if that 80 bucks a day or something, that’s ridiculous. Yeah. Yeah. And my son is immunocompromised. He has Down syndrome. And he was in the hospital for his first 10 and a half months. And so, you know, when he gets a cold, it lasts three weeks. And so I have that concern. And if I had the finances, I wouldn’t take the year off and homeschool my kids if that with, you know, finances were no issue.
S1: I’ve seen a lot of chatter on my, you know, very north Arlington, very white, very upper middle class Facebook feed. That what middle and upper class parents should do right now, if they have the choice, is to not send your kids to school. If you have the choice between sending your kids and not sending your kids. You should not send your kids to school, pick the all distance option, create a homeschooling part if you need to for a year, ease the pressure on the system so the lower income kids have more access to the resources they need, including if they in person learning what you guys think of that idea.
S5: I think that’s racism spot light.
S7: Honestly, we’ve just actually received emails around in that right, because we have these 13 schools where our high African-American populations that we focus on as a district and Seattle in terms of policy and resources to boost those schools up. And folks are saying like, well, why don’t you just keep those schools open and send the kids who are experiencing homelessness, the special education kids, X, Y and Z. All of the kids who have either high eighties or generational trauma or are not white to those schools to get in-person learning.
S5: So what you’re saying is you want us to create a covert hotbed, not only the students that are experiencing the most trauma will have access to. And that’s the exact type of policy recommendations that, you know, we as educators and policymakers need to be really wary of. Because on the surface, to a parent who identifies as that, that sounds like a great idea. I’ll keep my kid home, a home, school them. And then that frees up resources for everybody else when actually collectively we need to be uniting our voices in demanding a system that best serves all students, regardless if you have the resources to choose a different one or not.
S3: Yeah, it makes you feel good. Like I can keep my kids home and save the world. Meanwhile, you know, over at that school, all the teachers are sick and three kids have died. But I saved the world by keeping my kids at home.
S1: Brandon, you’re on the school board in Seattle. Let’s say the DOJ suddenly did an about face and just was like, we are going to throw ten billion dollars at the problem of opening schools up. How would you want to spend it? What could we do with money that would increase safety to any kind of acceptable level?
S5: Yeah. What they need to do is support efforts for municipal broadband. We need a device for every student. We need adequate and real rigorous professional development as educators to provide distance learning. We need a communications specialist for every district so that for the kids who for whatever reason, have not been as engaged in district farming. We can actually reach their families and get them plugged in. There are so many things that we could ask for. But I haven’t been asked to like. That’s the thing. It really begs the question, what is the commitment to public education for this specific administration and the GOP? It really what I honestly think is that this is a bait and switch to try to get people to go into charter schools, frankly, as a public educator. I think that this is just an opportunity for people to divest from the public education system, which is in terms of austerity really benefits the federal government. But in all actuality, we should be looking at this approach from a completely different way and think about knowing that we as districts are that social safety net for students. How can we bolster that safety net instead of just filling up the safety net and just knowing eventually that the bottom is going to fall out from under it?
S7: So I believe that we as not only municipalities, but especially the federal government, really needs to be going directly to educators, school board directors, teachers unions and asking, OK, how do we make distance learning work? Well, instead of just trying to shoehorn people into buildings and putting with hope at risk.
S3: Yeah, I’ll add that, you know, when I think about this problem, I always tell people, let us remember, it is a short term problem, like realistically next September. You know, September of twenty, twenty one. Things are going to be back to normal. So we’re looking at one school year and we sort of have a choice of hodgepodge in a school year into a school which will probably result in the death of children and teachers or like what Brandon said. If we actually invested in things like one device per child and broadband across a municipality, that would actually have long term consequences beyond the one year that we’re trying to get through.
S6: Yes, I can speak for like the one to one device school versus not because I came from one that did not have adequate technology. I’m in one now. It does it makes a huge difference as a teacher. Like, it makes a huge difference for students. It makes a huge difference for me in terms of what I’m able to accomplish during the day. I don’t have to make as many copies. I have quizzes graded for me, that kind of thing. There’s a lot to say for getting kids technology, but it’s not enough. In the district where my kids are zoned, they’re doing the one to one device for the kids. They’ve ordered all these chrome books. But are they going to be here in time? First of all, for the school, you’re just. And the district ordered all these laptops, but didn’t add any additional staff to inventory them, to label them, to distribute them. So far, they haven’t had sufficient professional development on like canvass the system that they’re using. It’s like, oh, OK, we’ll just get laptops and that’ll solve the problem. But there’s so many layers that underneath that that need to be addressed.
S4: The professional development piece is so important because you can give every person in the country a Chromebook. But if you don’t teach teachers what tools they had and how to use those tools to best reach students, it’s not going to matter.
S1: Cassie, if my child has an IEP or otherwise benefits from special education in some way. What is this coming year are going to look like for them? And how should parents be thinking about the role that special education can and should be playing in a mostly distance learning scenario?
S4: Yikes. That’s how you hear is going to look like. I told all of my parents toward the end of the year when they were starting to get anxious, a piece for the coming out from school districts for next year. And parents are reading them. And they were saying, well, my kid can’t do these things anymore. The things that they’re IEP said that they could do when I wrote it in January, they can no longer even do. Those things are no longer performing. Those schools are no longer looking in the eye, depending on what your district is doing and also depending on the age of your kid. The success of distance therapy is pretty variable. I have a half brother. He’s eleven years old and he receive special education services. And I asked him, how’s that going? Because I was curious and he said speeches, OK. But I don’t like Otey because you can’t actually help me. And I was like, yeah, probably not. You’re probably right.
S8: You know, his occupational therapist is working on hand, running with them. She’s doing positioning with his hands. She does lots of physical stuff and she can’t. And reposition his fingers into the proper pen grip. If she’s on a computer, but on the other hand, if you talk about likes speech therapy for high schoolers, it’s a totally different story because speech therapy for high schoolers is mostly working on like grammar and language skills, writing skills, persuasive writing, especially. And that’s something you probably can do over Zoom. Right. You can share the screen. You can talk through what they’re saying, especially if it’s a highly verbal child, someone who can really articulate their ideas verbally but has a hard time expressing and writing. Maybe then you can actually work with that. That’s something that I feel like you could probably effectively do, reading pens on their skill level, hit or miss math. Same thing. Physical therapy and occupational therapy. I think it’s kind of going to be a toss up, if you’re lucky. Maybe you can work on some of those skills. But I think for a lot of those kids, the IEP that were written before the quarantine started are just meaningless if the district. So you can physically scrap the document, start over. If they don’t, you’re just gonna have to know in your heart, like your teachers are doing what they can.
S4: But the document they wrote under the assumption that they could be there in person to provide therapy and they can’t. Like, that’s just not going to be. A realistic goal to set for yourself and the point of an IPO is to be realistically mutable goal.
S1: To broaden this question a little bit. The thing that faces students who depend on special education in some way or form is the fact, as Cassie says, that teachers just aren’t going to be able to accomplish the things that they could accomplish before the four of you. Are you all seeing as people start to talk about what the school year is going to look like, any kind of relaxation or any reduction of some of the official demands on teachers befitting these extraordinary times? Do you have to fill out less paperwork to have to attend to if there’s anything changing on the back end of the faces you guys are making right now are incredible. I wish our listeners could see them. Oh, you just go ahead and answer.
S3: I’m actually feeling lucky. Based upon these faces, because my district has done a very good job. You know, they immediately ended teacher evaluation for the year and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen next year. There’s no point in evaluating teachers and conversations that I’ve had with school board members and administrators have said that this is gonna be a year when we focus on the safety of children, the emotional health of children, and then learning will come with as much learning as we can manage statewide. Testing is probably still not going to happen this year. And so our focus is really on health and emotional well-being. And then, you know, when we can sprinkle some actual education into there, I mean, that’s our ultimate goal.
S6: Again, my school is not. Nothing is nailed down yet. But at the end of the year, I think I did as good a job as as I could have done with the time and the professional development that I had. And since I do so much stuff online, when we have the devices at my school, it wasn’t easy, but it was much easier than it probably was for other teachers for me to convert to an online model. But it’s going to be very difficult, especially if my kids are home. Like if my kids, my two five year olds do not go to somewhere else for kindergarten, my Zoome classes are going to be a lot of dealing with, you know, my brother peeing outside or whatever.
S3: Now, it’s true. My my kids got to know my class really quickly, like my kids. Every member of my class from last year.
S1: Matt, you alluded to this a little bit earlier. Do you all think that we are going to see like a mass exodus from teaching in the coming year? Do you think people are bailing?
S3: I think that this is an opportunity for people who are on the back end of their teaching career to retire. If I was fifty five to sixty five and I was looking at a school year like the one that’s coming and I was being sent to school, I might just say I will take my retirement now. Thank you very much. And move on. Frankly, I also believe that if we move forward with, you know, jamming people into schools and not having plans and peepee and all these things, there’s just going to be people who die and those people are going to have to be replaced, too. But I think between early retirements and between just losing teachers in tragic circumstances, I do think there’s going to be the opportunity for jobs in the future. And frankly, I don’t know if it’s going to hold. But I think parents, at least what I have heard, have begun to recognize the work we do. You know, I cannot tell you how many parents tell me, my God, I can’t believe you do this with 24 of them because I hate my kid right now and I don’t know how to teach them. So I’m hopeful that perhaps a tiny, tiny silver lining from this will be that teachers will earn some respect in this process. And that would be a nice thing, too.
S7: I don’t know. I think teaching for a lot of folks is probably one of the safer positions. I have constant conversations with my fiancee about how lucky we are to still have jobs at this moment because so many people don’t. I’m very blessed to work in a union state. And so our union has been great about representing us and fighting for the things that we need. But I’m also a child of the South. I’m originally from Mississippi. And the approach to how to work with educators is very different.
S9: As you can imagine, than it is in Washington state. So I think that it’s a little bit up in the air. I think that what Matthew suggested is true. I know a few teachers in my building who are taking an early retirement and checking up Deuce’s and call it a good. I know others who are actively applying for jobs or receiving jobs right now to fill those positions because of the nature of their previous positions. Right. And so it’s kind of going to be a mixed bag. I think that we’re going to lose a lot of institutional knowledge around the field. But I also think that we’re gonna get a lot of young people who are really, really excited to get in the classroom and kind of repair a lot of the harm that has been done not only from this pandemic, but from our race, a school system in the aim of truly reimagining what school looks like.
S5: So I’m cautiously optimistic.
S8: I’m friends. A lot of other teachers on Facebook or on social media. My sister’s a teacher. A lot of her friends are teachers and all my friends from grad school.
S4: I haven’t seen anybody close to my own age who is doing anything.
S8: Getting angry and advocating for the best thing for their school. I haven’t seen anybody young who’s like I forget this out out, which I think is really a testament to the emotional strength of those teachers to their days that I have felt like, forget this, I’m out. I haven’t made that choice either, but I am amazed at all of them. It is scary to think that, you know, like all these amazing educators that I know and I know more than a hundred in New York State and the death rate in New York states about one percent. So one of them is going to die. And that’s really scary because that’s a person who loves their job and cares about students and cares about learning and education. And to lose any one of them would be an incredible disservice and tragedy.
S1: What can parents do? What should parents do to make your jobs easier and safer?
S5: Bias and ninety five masks. Donate them to the school.
S3: That’s a pretty good suggestion. I would say that if we’re going back in any kind of in real life setting. You’ve got to keep your kid home. If your kid is sick and you got to let us know that your kid is sick. Do not send your child to school when they’re sick. The teachers will not be coming to school when they’re sick. We’re going to protect kids by staying home. So don’t send your kid to school when they’re sick, no matter what. Find a way to keep them at home.
S4: I mean, I think the only answer to me is don’t leave the house until then. Everybody go back into a full lockdown if you want us to reopen in September. You cannot leave your house from now until September. That’s it. Like order your groceries or use curbside pickup or do what you gotta do to keep alive. But if you want schools to reopen, then we are back to a full shut down until that happens.
S1: What’s the best case scenario for your school and your job as a teacher in 2020?
S10: I’ll say for me, I mean, ultimately, I want to be with my kids as much as I don’t want to be with my kids because of Cauvin. I think in a perfect circumstance, because I’m in Connecticut and our infection rate is very, very low. If it stayed low like it is now and every teacher had an end, ninety five mask and every kid was masked. You know, my perfect scenario would be a school year where I get to be with my kids in a very safe environment. I just always want to think about the idea that people say, you know, when the infection rate goes up, then we’ll quarantine. But when you say when the infection rate goes up, what that really means is when some people died. That’s when we will quarantine. We always casually say when the infection rate goes up, but that just means people died. And then we decided to quarantine. You can sort of never get ahead of it. So in a perfect world, I have everything I need to be safe. My kids have everything they need to be safe. That’s the ideal circumstance for me. I just don’t know if that’s gonna be an entirely possible ideally.
S6: Again, I do my best teaching in person, obviously. And I, like Matt, would love to be in the classroom with my kids, with the North Carolina infection rate still going up. I don’t think it’s safe. And until it goes down, until we have a vaccine, until we’re clear, I would advocate for a full online education.
S4: Cassie, I would love it if we could open in a way that was safe. I would love if there was some kind of scenario where we could have them even like once or twice a week just to come to the school just for a couple hours to be outside with their peers.
S8: And I don’t know, like do an activity outdoors or something. But at the same time, like, I know that’s not really safe either. So I think in my perfect, perfect world, we would find some way to protect children so that we could have some kind of in-person interaction, whether that’s school or something else, and then supplement the school with online. But also my perfect, perfect world. We’d be able to wait until there is a vaccine and until it was fully safe.
S5: A lot of places, including Seattle, are considering models, and I think that in so many ways, outdoor school, if your community can support it, is is critical.
S9: Right. Because it hits on so many things. It allows us to build closer partnerships with our community based organizations who often have closer relationships with our students than we do. It allows us to actually socially distance ourselves in some meaningful way. It takes kids out of these institutionally racist buildings and gives them the opportunity to engage with curriculum in the way that we as human beings have been doing since our beginnings as a species is educating ourselves outside.
S5: Right. And so just thinking again.
S9: I mean, so many folks are having these conversations about reimagining schools. And I really want us to be pushing ourselves to think about that more deeply than just the opportunity to get on a Zoome with an elected official or somebody who’s big in the industry or and just upload it to Facebook or Instagram or whatever for the sake of having the conversation and really do the hard work of thinking. Like if we are going to reimagine the system, if we are looking at this as an opportunity that needs seizing, then we can’t approach this with the same models and the same skill sets that we’ve been doing this so poorly for, quite frankly, for the past several hundred years. Right. Like, if we are seriously about rethinking and reimagining our school system, then we have to do it in an AP model isn’t going to do that. Going back to what we were doing before isn’t going to do that. If we don’t take bold action right now, like Matthew and others have been saying throughout the call, people will die. Children will die. And I really need superintendents, school boards, elected officials, parents. I really need all of the folks who are pushing us to go back to really take into consideration how many are you how many people, how many students, how many children, how many babies are you willing to lose to try something that we know is a really, really bad idea?
S1: All right. Thank you all so much. We have some hard questions. We have some hard answers. None of us really know what’s going to happen, but I feel a lot better knowing the teachers like you are in charge of taking care of our kids. Thank you so much. You can read more wise advice from Matt, Brandon, Kasey and Amy and Slate’s Ask a Teacher column. He publishes every Thursday on Starcom. Thanks again to all of you for joining us today. Thank you, everyone. This was great. All right. Before we go, the show isn’t over. We got a recommendation just for me this time. Jamal and Elizabeth recommend taking a week off. They love it. Our oven door broke last week. You’ll learn more about this in Slate Plus. But anyways, we can’t bake anything. So I’ve been feeling very dessert bereft because we can’t bake any pies or cakes or cookies or anything. Harper is a great baker. Ali is a great baker. I’m a great either of bakery. But then, Ali, I made a huge batch of banana pudding with Nilla Wafers, and it is the only thing I want to eat now. I’ve eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days straight. So my recommendation to you, dear listener, banana pudding, it’s a classic Southern hot weather dessert. Make it. Eat it. Live it. Love it. Banana pudding. All right.
S2: That’s our show, Fearnot, Jameela and Elizabeth will be joining me next week for a totally normal show. But we need your totally abnormal questions for that to happen. So please send us your questions. E-mail us at mom and dad at Starcom or post them to the sleep parenting Facebook group. Either way, we want questions from you. So my two compatriots can join us and give you the great answers you deserve. Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemarie Bellson for Amy Scott. Matthew Dix. Cassie Zarnow and Brandon Hersi. I’m Dan Coifs. Catch you next week. Thanks so much for listening.
S1: Hello, Slate plus listeners. Thank you so much for supporting Slate. Plus, we’re really, really grateful for the energy you put into our magazine and obviously for your money. Thank you so much for your support. To show you how much we appreciate you. We wanted to make sure you got triumphs and fails this week, even though we did not include them in the regular show. So, Amy Scott, thank you so much for sticking around your longtime friend of the show. Welcome back.
S6: My pleasure to be here.
S1: So we’ll each do one. But let’s start with you two ever. Do you have a triumph or a fail for us this week?
S6: I have a triumph, and that is being an old mom. I had my kids when I was three days short of thirty nine. I have twenty five year olds, one of whom has Down’s syndrome. There are certain disadvantages to being an old mom. Namely, the energy level is lacking. But because of that, there are certain things that I just don’t have the energy for. And so I don’t worry about it. Like I see parents all the time and parent groups on Facebook or whatever, you know, concerned about how do I do this? How do I do that? And I just don’t do it. For example, potty training. I don’t potty train. I didn’t potty train. Patrick potty trained himself when he was just under four. He about to go to pre-K. And I just didn’t do it. And I just you know, I had friends who were starting to potty train their kids at. And I just didn’t have the energy. I didn’t I couldn’t do it. And so it didn’t. And he did it. And then during this pandemic, during our quarantine time, Arlo, there are now five and three quarters. And Arlo has been in diapers this whole time. And same thing like he started and he just started going pantless. Has totally been Donald ducking it lately and just have so many of us. So, so many. I mean, who isn’t really. But he just started going potty and I was like, oh, OK. So I totally advocate being an old mom. Or if you’re not an old mom. Don’t bother with the things that are stressing you out. Just wait until your kids can do them anyway. Way like don’t teach your kids to do things that they’re not ready to do. Same thing happened with Patrick and the bike. He had like one of those balanced bikes, like the kick bike for, I don’t know, a year and a half. I didn’t show him how to ride it. He just sort of started writing it. And then our friend Claire gave me a pedal bike. And Patrick got on it. And he had pedaled other things at pre-school, I guess. And he got on it and he sort of wobbled twice. And I said, well, you’re not holding those handlebars straight. And he was like, oh. And then he rode a bike. Like, I did not teach him how to ride a bike. And so a lot of the things I think that parents worry about, don’t worry about it, just either be old or just take the old shoe. I’m too old. I’m too tired to do this kind of attitude packed like an old bomb.
S11: It’s great advice. It is true that in potty training, there’s a lot of stooping and carrying and lifting and cleaning.
S6: And yeah, it’s a pain in the ass off, unlike cuing in, you know, making sure that you’ve got their cues and, you know, carrying all kinds of changes of clothes and stuff. I haven’t had to do that. It’s been great.
S11: I love it. It’s a great triumph. Acting like an old mom is great. Congratulations on coming by naturally. Thank you. Well done. I have a fail this week. It’s a fail involving appliances. I don’t know if this is happening to you, Amy, but apparently our house was just not built for four people to be living in it for 24 hours a day every day because everything is breaking. The oven door broken. Now, the oven is just sort of half open all the time. The appliance repair guy goes like, oh, yeah, we can get that part. It’ll take 10 to 15 days. So we just don’t have an oven for ten to fifteen days. And then right like the same day the fridge broke, but the fridge breaking was more a matter of it had been broken for a long time.
S1: And we finally just realized, oh, nothing’s actually cold to back up. We get our milk delivered by the South Mountain Creamery, a wonderful Buji place. It’s very busy. It’s a tiny bit more expensive than getting it at the store. And it is obviously like all organic and comes to us straight to our door and great. But then like maybe an April or May and we we get like, you know, six 1/2 gallons of milk delivered every week because our kids drink an insane amount of milk. And certainly maybe in April or May, we notice that sometimes s a mountain milk would be a little sour after a couple of days. And we are like Jesus s mountain fucking get your act together.
S11: So, you know, I would send them an email and be like, I don’t know what’s going on in me because of the heat or because the Corona virus messed up your delivery schedule, but your milk’s going sour and they’d be like, oh, we’re so sorry. Here’s a refund happened a couple other weeks. Then I was like, maybe I better just stop ordering southbound melk. And we’ve got some ice cream a couple of weeks ago and we put it in the freezer, and the next day we take another freezer and it was just soup. And we finally went, oh, you know, we gave you this. Is that our rehearsal here sucks. So we had our guy come out to look at it and he took the cover off the case where the compressor and the quail’s Arnie show me the coils. And our refrigerator had two long metal coils. And you can see how well they’re doing by how frosted they are if the quills are very frosted. Means the compressors pushing freon through them and they’re doing the work they need to do. And I would estimate that 10 percent of the coils were frosted because the compressor. That’s just how much the compressor could do.
S6: You mean exactly how much you need for sour milk?
S11: Right. So for an unknown amount of time, our refrigerator hasn’t been cold at all. So I’ve just been feeding my children spoiled food for an untold number of months and also ripping off a fine local companies. Howth Mountain Creamery.
S6: You have some repenting to do.
S11: I do. I do. So we got a new fridge. The fail is, of course, that I have been poisoning my children forever. But we got a new fridge. And, you know, when you buy a new appliance, it’s a big deal. But it turns out there’s a fridge shortage in America. Did you know? Yes. America is currently facing a refrigerator shortage, you know.
S6: Yes. Yes. My mother had to order one for my basic at my grandfather’s house. Yes.
S1: Yes. It’s a disaster in the making for America’s refrigeration needs. So, of course, you know, I went out Consumer Reports and I made a list of the 15 fridges I liked best and that I went to a couple of appliance stores around town massed up and talked to those guys. And the end result was that I ordered the one fridge that was available the next week, which was my fifty first raided fridge on Consumer Reports. But it was either that or get a really good fridge that would be delivered to me in early September. So that’s all we did. We got a perfectly adequate fridge and this totally mediocre fridge makes our food so cold and cold. It’s incredible how good cold food tastes and how long it lasts.
S6: So long.
S11: It’s every refrigeration really is great. Anyone who isn’t refrigerating in their home right now should give it a try. So that was my fail. It was weird. It just never dawned on us for so long that just all our food was warm and we apparently had been paying close enough attention. But now we’ve solved it. We’ve got a perfectly adequate refrigerator that someone suggested to us that what we should do is we should we should just order the fridge we want the most now. And when it arrives in September, just post on Craigslist. Five hundred dollar fridge hardly used. Come pick it up tomorrow and someone is going to need a fridge so bad I’m going to need it. Yeah. Because of America’s fridge shortage. But yeah, that’s the fail. That’s the fail. But whatever. My kids arrived once again proving my mother in law’s adage a little bacteria just makes your children stronger.
S6: Well, good. I’m glad that they’ll be very healthy.
S1: Their immune systems are like region dry now. Not going to be incredible. Thank you, Amy Scott, for joining me for Triumph’s and fails. I’m glad you had a triumph. Glad, as always I had to fail that I turned into a triumph. Sleepless listeners, thank you for joining us. Your triumph is that, as you remember, Slate plus your fail is if you don’t renew. And Slate goes under and I lose my job. Please renew. Thanks so much. Talk to you next time.