Before I begin this post, I should mention that I retired last December, so I technically don’t have “skin in the game,” – no employers to irritate, no job to lose. But I still consider myself an educator, and I think I’ve earned the right to throw out some opinions after 29 years of experience.
In yesterday’s post I alluded to a previous attack I experienced in college. I had gone on a picnic with my boyfriend in a park in Lubbock, where he was attending law school. When I went to the restroom, a man followed me in, threw me on the floor, and tried to rape me. I yelled loudly, hoping one of the people I had seen near the entrance would come to my aid. When that didn’t work, I kicked him hard and scrambled away. He slammed me back down. I kicked again, and ran, finally making it past him. Standing outside the restroom was a couple, who gaped at me. I yelled at them, “Didn’t you hear me screaming?” as the perpetrator raced out the door behind me and away from the scene. They mumbled something about not realizing I was in trouble, and asked if I was okay.
I was not okay; I was furious – at them. Why didn’t they try to help? That experience, and the one that I detailed yesterday, made it clear that “Wait for someone to rescue me,” should never be Plan A. Another interesting revelation that comes to me in retrospect – Sister Rosemary had no idea the power I had in my quadriceps when she reprimanded me for kicking Scottie V. and potentially “giving him blood clots” when I was in 5th grade because he kept bugging me and no one would do anything about it. Little did I know that practice would save me from two sexual assaults later.
So, that leads us to today. What would I do now to save myself? If I was still a teacher on contract in a state where we technically can’t strike, how would I protect myself and my family from contracting a deadly virus when the school year begins again?
If I was still the idealistic college student who walked into a public restroom in broad daylight expecting safety and privacy or, at the very least, quick help when needed, I would say, “Let’s suggest to the federal government that it would behoove them to save the economy and education at the same time by starting a program that employs people who have been laid off in jobs that support socially distanced schools in the middle of this pandemic: extra bus drivers, food delivery personnel, people to sanitize the school, substitute teachers, child carers, and maintenance people to repair everything from broken bathroom stalls to out-dated HVAC systems.”
But I’m pretty sure even the me of thirty-something years ago would have taken one look at our current administration and said, “O.K. Uh, how about Plan B?”
So, my Plan B would be to get as many teachers as possible in my district to demand, at the very least, the items below from superintendents and school boards.
Do you guarantee:
- you will always make the mental and physical of needs of your students and staff your first priority, even above standardized testing scores?
- you will be providing an endless supply of masks and sanitizing materials to all students and staff for the remainder of this pandemic?
- you will organize the schedule so class sizes can accommodate the 6″ apart rule?
- you will give staff adequate time to train and prepare for new expectations?
- you will provide extra paid staff sick days, as needed according to a physician, if diagnosed with COVID-19, and not take them from standard allocated sick days?
- you will provide 14 paid quarantine days with work that can be done at home, not taken from standard allocated sick days, each time a staff member is exposed?
- you will have people on staff who will sanitize classrooms, restrooms, and other areas of the school so that teachers do not have to do this, or you will give teachers time to do this?
- you will work to attract and keep quality substitutes so teachers are not pulled from planning times and classes aren’t joined when a teacher is out?
- you have a plan for fire and lock-down drills that does not compromise social distancing?
Now, there are far more questions that I, and other teachers have (as you can see in this crowd-sourced document collected by Sarah Mulhern Gross), but the above would be the assurances I would need to set foot back in a classroom.
And, what if the powers-that-be can’t/won’t make those guarantees?
Save yourself. Do what you need to do to stay alive and mentally well. Whether it means quitting your job, or staying in it and finding ways to subvert the system to keep you, your students, and your families safe, don’t wait for rescue, and don’t underestimate your value.
Kick ’em in the groin and move on.