Students in some areas of Kansas City are now returning to classrooms for the first time since the middle of March.
So many questions are being hotly debated right now. Is it safe to return to school? Do the benefits outweigh the risks, especially for students who are disadvantaged at home? What’s the best and safest way to get students back into desk chairs?
What are the teachers really thinking?
We wanted to know—to eavesdrop on the conversations happening in the virtual teacher’s lounge.
So we arranged for three Kansas City teachers to have a candid conversation about the upcoming year. We promised the teachers total anonymity—they didn’t even know the names of the others on the line. Two of the teachers came from Kansas districts, one from a Missouri district.
We have a detailed transcript of their conversation at kansascitymag.com. Here are seven things the teachers mentioned as worries during that conversation.
1. Getting the virus. Obvious, right? But it’s on their minds, even if they support going back. “I think it’s the right decision to go back,” said one teacher we spoke to. “But at the end of the day, I am worried about the virus. I’m a person that’s high risk for complications if I were to get it, as is my husband. So there’s a chunk of me that is worried about dying when I go back to class.”
2. What’s happening to economically disadvantaged students not in the classroom. “I really worry about the equity for students that we know don’t have great access to the internet and might be food insecure,” said another teacher.
3. The lack of planning by administrators. “I don’t know that I have a lot of faith in their plans, to be honest,” said a third teacher. “Because we don’t really have a clear path forward in my district right now, I worry that teachers are trying to plan for every possible outcome. And so we’re kind of planning for nothing.”
4. Doing a good job. “I’m worried about doing a good job, I think more than I’ve ever been worried about doing a good job in my life,” said that teacher. “I worry about how to do a good job for those kids, academically, obviously, but also socially and emotionally.”
5. The limits of their ability to control students. “What we’re seeing from places that have opened doesn’t look good,” said the third teacher we spoke to. “I’m really worried about the personal responsibility. I can control somewhat what happens in my classroom, but hallways are really challenging. I really, really worry about passing times.”
6. The different environment of a distanced classroom. “I just keep thinking about how different it’s going to be this year if we can’t buddy up in small groups,” said one of the teachers we spoke to. “The way that I’ve come to have my classroom culture is really going to take a hit this year, and that’s going to be hard. I feel like we’ve worked so hard over the past eight to ten years of getting away from being on the stage and standing in front of the class and delivering lessons that we’ve prepared.”
7. Whether parents and administrators will have their backs if something goes wrong. “You are going to hear on the news that a student has reported positive at a certain school,” said one of the teachers. “I mean, it’s going to happen. And what’s interesting is how the school or the district responds to that.” Another echoed that thought: “I really, with all of this, worry about teacher responsibility. When we get that breaking news, how is that being reported and how are parents perceiving it? Is it like, ‘Oh, that third-hour teacher dropped the ball, because the kid took off their mask in her class, so this outbreak is her fault’? I worry about how all of that is going to be perceived and communicated across the board.”