I am a frog
It has been one week since I returned to work after ninety days off due to my open heart surgery and gall bladder removal. Prior to those ninety days, I managed to work for six days of the first semester of the 2020–2021 school year. Before those six days, I managed to work on campus for approximately twenty days of the second semester of the 2019–2020 school year before school was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I had to work virtually exclusively from home for the final quarter.
Though, so far, I’ve managed to avoid the Coronavirus, clearly my health in 2020 even prior to the heart and gallbladder issues has been less than pleasant. Before I knew I had a bum ticker and calcified gallbladder, I was struggling with mycobacterium chelonae. To learn all about all of this mess go back to my first post and read on.
If you’d rather skip that though, here is the short version: I survived.
Now I have a few more scars and a unique viewpoint. In fact, before my return to work I knew, on an intellectual level that my viewpoint was unique. I knew that my interesting set of trials and tribulations in 2020 (and the last few months of 2019 if I’m being honest) made the way I interpreted the world at this historical moment… different.
But I didn’t grasp just how different.
About a week before my return to work, a colleague told me that when I did walk through the doors of our high school again, I would be like a frog thrown into a pot of boiling water… and other frogs….
All of the other frogs were placed into the pot before it was set on the flame. All of the other frogs swam around, content in what they must have initially imagined was a warm bath. However, this pot, it must not be forgotten, is full of water that keeps getting hotter and hotter and hotter until the frogs inside are cooked. Unfortunately, these poor bastards have no idea they are slowly dying. I, the new frog, tossed in after the waters are already bubbling and boiling like crazy, am shocked. I struggle, try to get out, and look around at my fellow frogs, some of which are dead, all of which are dying, and I think, “How do they not know they’re being cooked alive?”
In other words, I’m panicked. I’m the lone frog screaming to those around me that the water is on fire. It seems improbable. It should be impossible. But the water is, in fact, on fire. Maybe you’ve heard of a similar story about a chicken who noticed the sky was falling….
I should have twenty or more students in all of my classes. I have an average of six. At my school, we have more teachers gone every day than ever before and fewer substitutes. Governors across the nation are taking their cues on how and why to continue in-person public education not from doctors or epidemiologists, but economists. The cleverly titled “Three Cs of Coronavirus” we are supposed to avoid are literally impossible to avoid in schools. In case you haven’t heard, we are supposed to avoid contact with an infected person, we are supposed to avoid closed quarters, and we are supposed to avoid crowded venues. It may be difficult for some of you to remember, but I beg you to try. Even with fewer numbers of students present every day, halls are crowded. There are still students whose parents think Coronavirus is a hoax and send them sick or worse, there are educators who do not believe the science and come to work infected. More importantly, there are still very few ways to effectively teach in-person while keeping your distance.
We are all in a pot of boiling water and it is not hyperbole to say that people are dying, teachers are dying. It is not hyperbole to say 1% of the population is a huge number. It is not hyperbole to say that teachers and students are being sacrificed at the alter of economy and few with any power to stop it care.
Still, many students, teachers, parents, and administrators are walking around as though this is business as usual.
This is not business as usual.
We are frogs in a pot of boiling water. Unless things change, eventually the pot is going to be filled with dead frogs and when it boils over those of us left alive are going to very, very different.
I like to teach solution journalism though, so I’ll leave you with this. There are solutions. Some of them require new mindsets, some of them require simple problem solving skills, but all of them require, more than anything, the acknowledgement that things are not as they should be. The kids — the teachers — are not all right.
Once we recognize this, once we recognize that we are struggling through a serious problem that is bringing to light every last weakness in public education, once we recognize that the water is boiling and if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, all COVID-19 did was turn up the heat, we will be able to come up with solutions. I have a few ideas. They involve transparency in where Coronavirus federal aid money is ending up. They involve a restructuring of education that teaches for tomorrow not today. They involve getting access to high speed internet to everyone. They involve that one thing that we cannot avoid no matter how hard we try, no matter how many of us avoid it, and no matter how many of us are angered by it.
They involve change.