I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Agreed.

Our awesome school district has been having many more board meetings than they have had in the past, due to all the options and struggles and opinions in the community - all around COVID19.

I was watching the board meetings as they took place for the start of the school year, but I soon realized I could not watch in real time anymore. I was not sleeping those nights. I need sleep in order to be a somewhat effective classroom teacher. Just when I realize I need to watch the videos on a weekend morning, I felt the need to attend the latest board meeting as it occurred. I am currently teaching as many as 15 students at a time in my classroom, along with as many as 20 at home on a screen. It depends on the day, and numbers are always fluctuating. I shared a few things that make this hybrid time different in my last post.

Our union president, an educator and resident of our district, spoke first. I agree with her entire speech. Here are the statements that stick with me:
  • The teachers... want nothing more than to be with our students, in person, and to deliver quality education for every child. ... We agree with parents and the board that this is important and necessary, and this is what we strive for. We feel strongly that while numbers continue to rise in every community around us, and even [our town], bringing students back in person, full time, without safety mitigations in places, poses a danger for all of us. We are not opposed to in-person learning. We are opposed to unsafe learning.
  • Right now, in the midst of the pandemic, most of us would not invite 25 people into our homes, especially if you didn’t know where those 25 people have been, in terms of who they have been hanging out with, where they have been going with their families, if they have traveled, if they are playing on sports team, etc. This is essentially what happens when 25 students enter our classrooms. It is like inviting 25 people
  • into your home with no background information as to how safe they have been. Middle school classrooms are inviting a different group of 25 children into classrooms every 40 minutes, which would be like having close to 200 people in your home over the course of one day. Right now, everyone in Cook County are being encouraged to have gatherings of no more than 25 people in your home, and the only people gathering should be close friends and family. Bringing back all students at once is irresponsible and ignores the advice of medical experts.
  • The teachers in [our district] are committed to making sure each student has the best education. (She shares how we'll be in and out of school, quarantining, substitutes will be in classes, stress will be added, and some teachers may be forced to take a leave or resign. None of that is good for children.)
  • We truly want what’s best for all our students and would love to be in-person when it is safe to do so. The only barrier standing in our way is COVID19. COVID19 is the barrier.
  • We all want the same thing for our students, families and community. We want students in school, and we care about the health and safety of all.
Other teachers spoke. Parents spoke. I took notes. I cried. Again.

Our superintendent's team put together a presentation that included advice from the district's insurance, current numbers of students in remote and hybrid for each school, and numbers should we stay six feet apart or numbers if we are not six feet apart. The cost to the board should all students go to school in person five days a week (except those remote, of course) was eye-opening to me.

If you'd like to know how a school board meeting in the time of COVID19 goes, check it out for yourself:
This meeting looks a bit different, as the teachers showed up earlier than parents, so the physical room is full of teachers on this night. Everyone who had brought something to say had their time and space to say it, like always. Check previous board meetings to hear more parent views.

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