Think of who gets bruised when teachers unions put up a fight
Re “Deal would let schools delay their openings: Pact seen giving state officials, teachers more time to prepare” (Page A1, July 28): In her letter to union members announcing the revised schedule, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association stated, “When we fight, we win.” May I ask who she means by “we”? Is it the child of two working parents who will be left alone in his home or apartment to “learn” remotely? Is it the special needs student who will not receive services? Is it the young child whose emotional development has been, and will continue to be, affected by this disruption in learning?
At a time when the mantra has been “We are all in this together,” the strident and unyielding tone and stance of the MTA have been disappointing, to say the least, and revelatory as well. One imagines that planning for this eventuality could have begun in March. Effective teachers always revise their lessons and develop new plans as they teach.
As a retired teacher and union member for more than 30 years, I am embarrassed for the profession that I love.
Collective stress and trauma will be the elephant in the classroom
The coronavirus pandemic has upended our world as we know it and affected our lives in every way imaginable. This physical health crisis has also created a mental health crisis, a collective stress and trauma — the elephant in the room — and it has affected children, parents, and educators alike.
Teachers and students are being asked to prepare to go back to school in a hybrid model. When we consider reopening schools, if we don’t address mental health concerns, we will fall far short of educating our children.
Decades of scientific research show that when we are stressed or traumatized, we are incapable of learning. We have to feel safe to learn and to teach. Any reopening plan has to address the social and emotional health of students and staff.
We agree with the proposal by teachers unions emphasizing social-emotional health as a priority. It supports a period of adjustment and training for staff as essential so that they are equipped to heal from and deal with their own stress and trauma. Only then will they be able to connect with their students, create safety, and help them heal so that their stress response can be quieted. Then learning can occur.
The writer is an educational consultant.
Commissioner Riley needs to work with unions at this challenging moment
I was surprised and dismayed to read that Jeffrey Riley, Massachusetts education commissioner, walked away from further discussion with representatives from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Boston Teachers Union, and American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts regarding the reopening of schools next month, despite the many issues facing educators as a result of COVID-19 (“Deal would let schools delay their openings”).
Teachers need time and training to prepare for this unprecedented teaching situation, and the health of teachers, staff, and students must be protected. Current reopening plans vary from district to district. We are seeing widening disparities between the educational opportunities that are open to children of affluent families and the ones open to children from more straitened circumstances. This flies in the face of public education’s stated mission and goals.
There should be no requirement that all instruction be done in person.
An environmental and safety assessment of every school facility is needed before schools reopen, and the reopening of all school buildings should be tied to COVID -19 benchmarks.
As a former public school teacher, I believe that teachers and students deserve Riley’s continued engagement with the professional organizations and unions of teachers to work through this challenging moment in public education.