Love A Good Story. I just Love a Good Story.
Don’t you just Love a Good Story? Here is another Good Story.
The other day I had a conversation with my father, Hamilton Maddox, the main character in Judy Kelly’s novel, The Attractiveness of Wisdom. He suggested I send out the next blog and express my views from our conversation. My father encourages me and my brothers to say what we think, and say it respectfully, but also show how deeply we care about what we think. My father is now a vice president of his university, and he has always believed that one should speak his thoughts, but one’s opinions should be based in fact.
As you recall in a previous blog, I am in my first year of college in New York. This year has been difficult for me and many other university students. Not only have I missed my father, Hamilton, and my brothers, Eric, and Jeremy, I have also not been able to attend college in the traditional way. Learning via the computer has caused many hardships for both students and teachers, but making teachers return to work in the middle of a pandemic is unconscionable. It is not only unjust or immoral, it also deepens and widens the chasm between parents and teachers.
During my first college year, the pandemic pushed its way into our lives causing havoc, chaos, pain and resulting in death for some. My student life had begun, and I looked forward to going to the library to do research, staying up late completing homework, making new friends, and getting to know my teachers and friends. But then we had to go home and complete our coursework on Zoom on our computers. I had always looked forward to college life. My father first was a professor of journalism at a university. He rose to the dean, and now he is a vice president. I loved the stories he told us about his students, their hardship, the trouble they got in and he had to bail them out, and the articles they wrote for the newspaper, school magazine and community magazines. He made college life seem so glamorous to me, and I couldn’t wait to be a student at a well-known university.
The glamorous life of a college student is not the same on Zoom. Students, high school and college, use Zoom at home. They are at home sitting behind a computer answering questions, doing math, history or writing paragraphs and papers. There is no interaction with other students, and not much with the teacher. I think back to my high school years and what it would have been like in high school if I had to continue my education on Zoom. High school is a time for us to get to know who we are and what we want for ourselves. We validate who we are in high school. We test things and determine our limits, we discover our need to be part of a community, to have a social life, and we begin to see what beliefs and values we hold for ourselves. High school is not only a time for academics, but it is a time in our lives where we make the greatest growth in ourselves as we see who we are against our friends and family. High school is an extremely valuable step in our lives. The past year, many have had to skip that step due to the virus.
Even though I loved the college life I had so far, and I see the great need for high school students to be with each other, I would not want to make my professors risk their lives by going back to work in the middle of all this. It is too much to ask a person to take such a risk. Teachers and professors are not front-line workers. The profession of teaching is not one where teachers risk their lives. They are not doctors, nurses, EMTs, police officers, or firefighters who are trained to protect themselves against contagious diseases and viruses and know what precautions to take. They are teachers. They have earned degrees in English, Science, History, Social Studies, Math, and other subjects. Teachers work with students in close proximity, their minds on getting across the concept, helping students to understand, and teaching them how to maintain skills.
Many teachers have families. This risk would also put their families in jeopardy. How can we ask them to do that? How can we demand that teachers not only put themselves in jeopardy, but also put their families in jeopardy? Many teachers also have small children. What happens if a teacher is ordered to return and her child’s school does not make that order? How will those teachers take care of their families? Their situation is more complicated if they are single parents. Making a demand that teachers return to work without consideration of their families or abilities to return under these circumstances is purely unjust.
I think about what would have happened to my family if my father had to put himself and all of us at risk. You will recall from a previous blog post, that my mother was sick, and my father had to take care of us most of the time. I ask myself what would have happened to my brothers and me if my dad had been ordered to return to work amid a horribly contagious virus. We would have been worried about him, about my mother, and we would have been worried about what would happen to us. We would have worried about who would take care of us. Would we still be able to attend college? Where would we live? Would we have had to stay with our grandparents in Stevensville? My father believed that a family must do what it must do to stay together. Would we have had to split up?
If that had happened to us, I would want someone to be responsible for the consequences. Who would that have been? Would it have been the parents who put pressure on the school systems to open the schools? Would parents hold themselves responsible for negative consequences should teachers contract the virus and don’t make it? Would they hold themselves responsible if a teacher was fired because she couldn’t find someone to take care of her children while she was under a demand to take care of other people’s children? Why wouldn’t they, when they were the ones who made the demand? My father said that there was a division between parents and teachers. Parents want their children taught one way, usually against learning theory, and teachers want to teach another way, according to the way children learn. Insisting that teachers return under adverse circumstances would not bring the groups together.
A suitable solution would be to poll the teachers to see which ones can return and which ones will encounter hardships. The school system will need to arrange classes based on those who are able and want to return and those who can’t. Those who can’t, shouldn’t be fired. Parents, including those who are also teachers, must see to their children. Many parents are not working during the pandemic, and those who are not, must help their children. This is a time when we all must come together to agree and do what is needed. But forcing people to do a job under such adverse circumstances, regardless of the reason, is not the right thing to do.
Last night, on the news, there was a story about a mother who tried to keep her job and help her son who is in the 4th grade. Her work hours were cut, and it allowed her to spend time helping her son with his schoolwork. She and her son moved in with her father so she could help him. You have to have a lot of admiration for someone who steps up to the plate.
I thank you for indulging me. I know I’m young, only beginning my life, and don’t understand a lot of things. I know I have much to learn. It is not my intent to harm anyone, or insult anyone, but I do want to share my feelings. If you would like to respond to my comments, I would love to hear what you think.