When I call it “battle,” my intent is not to belittle or steal valor from any military members that have seen actual battle, or have prepared emotionally and physically for the rigors of war. No, this is more of a metaphorical battle, and I assure you that I don’t have what it takes to actually go to war. I chose a career that was rewarding, yet safe; financially limited, yet comfortable; institutionally structured, yet simultaneously flexible and evolving.
So why do I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach? I remember this feeling. I recall a similar physical reaction felt on the night before my very first day of teaching. It’s a balled up mess of nerves, excitement, fear, and anticipation. It’s stepping up to the plate with bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th. It’s hearing the slowing clicks on the track of the rollercoaster right before it reaches its apex.
But this? This is different. This lacks any of the positive notions that other feeling had. This is more like fear mixed with anger with a whole lot of confusion piled in. This is getting dragged under by the current in the Pacific Ocean. This is stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson without gloves or a mouthguard. This is getting into a heated argument with some drunk asshole in a bar who is wielding a freshly broken bottle.
This is not a battle against some foreign enemy who has committed atrocities too terrible to even speak of. This is not a battle against a virus that, despite being relatively harmless to some, is killing an eyebrow raising number of people. No. This is a battle against absolute and unwavering stupidity.
I have everything ready for students to walk into my classroom, and yet I feel completely unprepared. I’ve watched my class roster fill up with kids who won’t be in school the first day because they are quarantined. I’ve heard rumors that students are knowingly going to large parties and sharing drinks with others while carrying Covid-19. I have a sneaking suspicion that numbers are being concealed so we can open up our doors as we declared we would. And for what? So we can appease the community that thinks face-to-face education is the right thing to do? Guess what? This isn’t what face-to-face education is. This is an abomination. And it’s a farce. I don’t expect the general public to understand all the ins and outs of a classroom, but I most certainly expect those embroiled in the business portion of the game to know better than what they are doing.
If anyone can tell me with a straight face that they believe more than half of the teenagers, entering high schools across the country in the next couple of weeks, will take the precautions seriously, and act like the adults they almost are, I will eat my goddamned hat. Afterwards, I will consider that person an intellectual void, because it ain’t gonna happen. It’s not malice, but it is out of the skillset of most teenagers to act the way they need to in our current situation.
My biggest fear is that a careless teenager will bring Covid into my classroom, and I will inadvertently pass it on to my family. I’m less concerned about the fact that my community could give two shits about me or my loved ones getting sick (or worse), and more concerned with not being able to provide a high quality education to my students because this is about the least ideal environment to be stuffing 2,000 egocentric human beings.
If I could take you through all of the protocols and “trainings” we have as we prepare to enter this nightmare, I think you’d be appalled. I have 18 inches between seats in my room. I don’t recall…what was the recommended distance? Was it 18 inches? Hmmm….Oh, and I have wipes and rubber gloves to “disinfect” my classroom in the 6 minutes between classes, while my students congregate in the hallway with a couple hundred of their closest friends. Don’t worry though, I got a YouTube video sent to me which explains how to properly disinfect the classroom.
Look, I’d love nothing more than to have that excited feeling tonight, and walk in tomorrow morning, shoulder-to-shoulder with all the students. But that’s not reality. That’s not the situation we’re currently in. And rather than take the opportunity provided to us, and revolutionize the way education is done in this country, we’re walking into the most obvious shit show the world has seen in recent memory.