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The Hard Truth - 24 Teacher Thoughts

frustrated over covid

With the return to school after winter break, conditions have grown more dire than ever before. The phrase “at the breaking point” has taken on new meaning with staffing shortages, widespread sickness, and fuzzy guidelines around how to manage quarantine that go all the way up to the CDC. As we hurtle through these early weeks of 2022, so many people are at odds about what schools should be doing in the face of this unprecedented surge of infections. With the pervasiveness of these conflicts around education come the frustrations of those who are closest to the classroom: teachers. Here are just a few of the many thoughts teachers have been sharing since the new year began in the hope that people will listen, take note, and be helpful rather than combative.

  1. Short-staffing is everywhere: classrooms, offices, buses, cafeterias. It’s dangerous and exhausting, and we need help.
  2. With staffing shortages come equity issues. If buses cannot deliver students to school who have no access to alternate modes of transportation, how can they be there to learn? If teachers are absent, what instructional opportunities exist for students? These are urgent issues that require solutions.
  3. Student absenteeism is pervasive. Many absences are due to legitimate concerns connected to infection, and there is not enough direction about how to address a growing number of missing kids.
  4. Consistency and clarity are especially important right now; this is not the time for mixed messages, new initiatives, or a lack of follow-through on promises.
  5. KN95 masks and rapid test kits are in short supply; more access to these tools for students and teachers is needed to keep schools open.
  6. Nobody wants to be told to increase self-care right now. School conditions are dire, and if teachers could care for themselves, they would.
  7. No matter how people feel about virtual instruction, it does not equal school closure. Stop putting the two in the same category.
  8. When adults fight about schools viciously, kids absorb the tension. Let’s keep it civil for their sake.
  9. Right now, in-person learning does not guarantee that instruction is continuing without interruptions; with so many quarantine restrictions and teacher absences, some classes are covered by whoever is available to help.
  10. The loud voices of the few get more attention than the quieter voices of the many; don’t assume that what you read in the media represents what most teachers think or feel.
  11. People who work in schools are scared right now for all kinds of reasons. It is unkind to mock or minimize that fear.
  12. More so than ever, anyone who is not a teacher cannot fully understand what the job looks like in reality.
  13. Instead of being angry that schools are closing, volunteering to cover classes or substitute (time and resources permitting) is a helpful action for parents or community members.
  14. It is impossible to make everyone happy right now by providing all the learning options that exist; schools are not buffets.
  15. This pandemic is happening to all of us in real time. Spur of the moment decisions might need to be made, changed, or scrapped. Please react with understanding.
  16. Great things are happening in classrooms. Kids are still enthusiastic about learning and teachers are still designing learning experiences that make a difference in so many lives.
  17. If anyone wants to make a teacher’s day, offer to make copies for their classes, help straighten up the classroom, or wipe down desks and chairs with disinfectant.
  18. For anyone not in the classroom, avoid using the word “should” in reference to how teachers are managing life in schools right now. It comes across as preachy or directive, even if that is not the intention.
  19. Getting a short but encouraging email or handwritten note will make any teacher’s day.
  20. If anyone in your family is feeling sick, please do not take your children to school. Send teachers an email asking for assignments and try to get tested for covid before exposing numerous others. Yes, it’s highly inconvenient. It’s also invaluable.
  21. Be vocal about supporting teachers in public settings. You never know who is listening.
  22. Everyone is looking to leaders to make changes that will help students learn and achieve. Leaders may make important decisions, but remember that student success is a shared community responsibility.
  23. Teachers get to work early and leave late. Teachers bring work home. Teachers plan lessons in waiting rooms or grocery store lines. Nobody wants a medal for that or overtime payment, but remember those unpaid hours the next time you are tempted to accuse a teacher of ducking work.
  24. Be kind. Please, just be kind.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less and is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS.

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