The latest crisis within a crisis is the issue of whether or not school should resume in-person in August. Here in Florida the decision has been made that students will be returning with, in certain counties, the option to work virtually from home. When I wrote back in March that I felt the remainder of the year should be waived given that effective learning really couldn't occur in the shock of an unprecedented crisis, never in my wildest dreams (nightmares?) did I think we'd still be facing this--at this level--come August. At the time there were murmurings that we would likely be in this spot, but, probably like many others, I couldn't let my mind go there.
Well, here we are.
Unlike what it seems many people do, I won't write this with the intention of giving you my stance or strong opinion on what I believe you (or school districts or government officials) should do. (I know the last thing I need right now is another friggin' opinion.)
I also seem to be in the minority of Americans who acknowledge that
1-I'm not a trained medical professional or virologist,
2-I'm not a staunch Republican or die-hard Democrat who claims to have "The Answer" to this crisis,
3-I believe the truth in the statistics, data, and news probably lies somewhere in the middle.
So I don't have an answer for you, as I don't even have an answer for us yet. What I will offer is the only thing I can--my perspective on the whole thing and where I personally turn when it comes to making any tough decision (spoiler alert: it's not CNN or FOX).
I think we've all felt the weight of this decision coming as summer progressed, especially teachers who are also parents of school-aged children--there are so many factors to consider. Whether or not education professionals should even be forced into this position in the first place--having to decide whether it's worth putting themselves and their families at risk in order to continue making ends meet--is a big issue within itself that would make this way too long and the reality is, even if you protest and advocate for change, your goals may not come to fruition in time, still leaving you in the position to make a very difficult decision in terms of your health, career path, and finances. Whether to return or not--whether to send your kids or not--is truly a home by home decision very much based on each family's particular situation & circumstances.
As with threats of school shootings in the past, the risk vs. benefits questions involved in the education profession have changed over the years, moving from is my willingness to serve students worth the sacrifice in pay? to the added question that those in the medical profession have always had to consider: Am I willing to risk my own health/life for my career? What cost are we, as a family, willing to gamble for the payoffs? And those answers are going to be different for each family.
I think what we have to be careful of in making our decision-making process in front of our kids--especially our girls--is not modeling martyrdom, making decisions from a place of "well, I have no choice so I'll take one for the team" or "we have no other options so I'll return for the kids". It's so important that our kids get the message that we, in a female-dominated profession, have agency over our own health and well-being, our future, and our choices and that the kids--whether our own or our students--are not a burden; that, even if we feel we have no choice, we don't send the message that we feel unsafe and then proceed anyway, letting fear be our central guide in the decision-making process.
I want to be clear--I'm not saying that you're a poor role model or abandoning yourself if you feel fearful about going back either financially or in terms of safety and make that choice anyway...part of being a responsible adult is putting on our big girl panties and doing what we have to do for a period of time. There was a choice I made in my career years ago that directly contradicted what I felt was the right path for me, but I consciously chose it because of the tough circumstances we were in at the time, and I don't regret helping keep our family afloat when I needed to. But I also owned the choice and made the best of it, trying to model what it looks like to choose willingly to walk through that door each day, not take the attitude of someone who was pushed through it begrudgingly.
Whether we choose to return because we aren't fearful,
we choose to return despite being fearful because we love what we do,
or we simply choose to return because we feel we have no other option,
where the choice really lies at that point is in the attitude we choose to bring and model for the kids. Look, there's no glory or heroism in returning to a job only to remind the staff and students around you through your words and actions how resentful you are that you had "no choice" but to do so.
I'm sure some of you will read this (or the title only) and think it's a privileged view to say that some education professionals even have a choice in the matter at all, but guys--this is our ONE precious life and I believe, despite your circumstances, you ALWAYS have a choice about what you decide to do with it, especially if you believe your health and life are at risk. My hope is that we can support each other's choices and trust that everyone is making the best decision they can for themselves and their family. If that means going back, I hope those who do show up in a way that leaves our students looking at them thinking "we're going to make it through this and be okay".
If you weigh your risks & benefits and choose not to, I hope you don't allow guilt or other people's opinions make you doubt yourself and your decision. Nothing may feel certain right now but, when we look back on this time, I have a feeling the one thing will be clear is that we were all doing the best we could with an incredibly tough situation. The good news in all this is that we always--deep down--know what to do, even if it's hard. In my experience, staying true to ourselves and doing what we know in our gut is right (whether that means staying or going) is never a choice you'll regret.
I'm Krissy & I'm so thankful you're here. Being a woman, a wife, a mother--it's all rewarding but also tough. I hope this is a place you can go that feels like caffeine for the soul. Check out the categories below and, if you like what you read, subscribe to make sure you always have good Sunday morning reading to go with your coffee :)