I am a teacher, but I am a mother first, and as a mom I have made sacrifices in an effort to stay safe during the pandemic. My little family unit stays home day after day. We miss the people we love. My husband and I have juggled working from home with caring for our adventurous toddler daughter. On the cusp of turning 2, I worry about her missing out on the developmental opportunities she would have at daycare socializing with kids her age, but I know we have been lucky. As the summer passes by, my anxiety creeps higher each day. I am a teacher. I obsessively follow any news related to school re-openings and am in constant communication with my fellow teachers about the decisions being made. Our voices aren’t being heard.
As cases continue to rise in most states, there is still a strong push to re-open schools. Those in favor say that “most” kids will be fine. Many parents are being given the tough decision of choosing in-person or entirely virtual instruction, but what about us? Teachers must choose between their livelihood or the physical safety of not just themselves, but their family. My district has not yet voted, but they are leaning toward a hybrid model that has teachers working in-person four days a week. At the elementary level, where I work, masks for students will not be required. They say the kids will probably be OK even if they do catch it. But what about the teachers?
Teachers who already face immense stress under normal circumstances will now have to face an added and overwhelming fear of contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families.
I am a teacher, but I am a mother first. I look at my daughter’s beautiful face and wonder if I could consciously make the choice to put her in harm’s way. Sure, we’d probably be OK if we caught COVID-19. Are we gambling on probably? I have a previously healthy, 30-year-old friend who has been on a ventilator battling for her life for nearly a month. A month that she has been away from her sons, a 2-year-old and 10-month-old who can’t possibly understand where their mommy is. My heart hurts for them. My heart hurts to think of being separated from my daughter if I were to contract this virus or pass it along to her as well. My husband and I want to try to conceive to grow our family. We’ve been waiting in these uncertain times, but my doctor told me to go ahead and try. She said it should be fine if I do my best to “stay safe.” How can I stay safe if my place of employment isn’t doing all they can to protect me?
I know the tremendous challenges parents are under. For many, they need their kids in school so that they can work. They worry about the socio-emotional health of their children and the learning opportunities they are losing. I am a teacher. I know the value of in-person instruction. I also know that even if we are back in the buildings, it will not be back to “normal.” All the most effective parts of education will be gone. Teachers who already face immense stress under normal circumstances will now have to face an added and overwhelming fear of contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families.
I am a teacher and I care about my students. Teachers do more than teach. They counsel, nurse, mentor, support, nurture, and love their students. I truly believe being an educator is my calling, so it is heartbreaking that I may be faced with the decision to leave a profession I love because I feel I have no other choice to protect my family. I know I am not alone in this feeling, especially when decisions are being made and our voices aren’t being heard.
I am a teacher. I want to be in the classroom with my students, but not at the cost of risking my physical safety. I do not want to gamble on the lives or health of my family. I do not want my coworkers or my students to have to take that risk either. Every mother looks at their child’s face and feels a love so fierce, they’d do anything to protect them. This virus is something we all need to be protected from and we can’t do it unless we work together.
I am a teacher, yes, but I am a mother first.