Masks, School and the Elephant in the Room

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Over the past two weeks the discussion of opening schools has come to a head in regard to how to do this safety during COVID19 and yet provide child care (because that unfortunately is what we do), food services, and safe learning opportunities in a safe environment where kids can be social during a pandemic. Anybody already looking out the corner of their eye like "are you serious?"? As a former teacher of 25 years and current therapist, psychoeducation professional and mental health trainer, I have just one or two things to say about all this. This started out as a Facebook post but... needless to say.... it earned it's spot here.

This is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about supporting teachers, training and preparing them. Because we don't. Schools of education do not give you behavior or classroom management training. Rarely is there more than one or two courses on psychology required for the degree. No classes in child development. The education degree focuses on the pedagogy of method of teaching predominantly. District PD focuses on curriculum and pedagogy mostly. Every now and there you run into a district recently that is embracing the Trauma Informed, SEL theme with PD, but for many it's a box to check. Self care might be encouraged, but throwing chocolate and jeans days has nothing to do with self care and reflects the token economy system that we have embraced for decades with non meaningful bribes. I'm guilty of those horrendously. Blow pops, Skittles, candies, pencils, stickers, you name it to motivate and get kids to be cooperative and....compliant. I even had a district administrator in a district tell us, "we don't want kids to be compliant, we want them to own their learning." Owning your learning is one thing. Being compliant so that you learn to do it and not get yourself killed is another.

Teachers were asked to stand in front of armed gun men to protect our kids, your kids. Not outright asked. But we willingly did it, do it, and it an unfortunately normal part of the job now because we love them as our own and want them to be safe. So yes, some of us would take a bullet for them. And now, you're asking us to do it again. To continue to do it but this time not out of an emergency surprise from an armed intruder, but from something known that has killed 140,000 people in our country and is running rampant.

We understand you have to work. We understand you need childcare, your kids need to be fed and they want to interact with each other socially. But at what cost. Is sending Jose to school for 2 weeks before he is quarantined, then has to be in the hospital, ICU or got forbid never leaves alive worth the social interaction before the next shut down, because there will be one. Is sending Jasmine to school where her class doesn't wear their masks and they can't, through no fault of their own, control the nature of a classroom of kids to stay 3-6 feet apart and they end up touching, hugging, standing next to each other talking? Say 9 of the 15 kids end up testing positive quarantining the entire class. The teacher tests positive and she happens to have an immune disease which many teachers suspiciously get (so many theories on that), and the teacher ends up in ICU. 6 weeks later she dies(yes I'm using she because over 80 percent of the teaching body in this country is female) . During that time the 9 kids that tested positive in the class, 1 has died as well, 2 more are on ventilators in ICU, 2 more had mild disease but now they and 4 others have developed neurological conditions and heart and kidney conditions where they need dialysis and their cognitive skills will be impacted for life. This was after their parents thought they'd recovered. And that scenario, as morbid as it is, is just one class in a school of 20 or more classrooms at an elementary school. Take it to secondary, quadruple those results.

It is not the fault of teacher. I will even go as far to say it is not the fault of administrators who are having ZOOM meetings right now instead of meeting in person discussing face to face classes while it's not safe enough for them to even meet. Irony. It is partially the states fault if were looking for blame. And through that, it's government from the very top. I don't want to get into presidential politics for once because frankly, if you don't see something wrong with what is happening and 140K people plus dying with a leader saying it's over while cases rise, then I honestly can't help you. But this is what the reality is. All these decision makers that are trying to decide what will work in a classroom... let me tell you what I see right now in summer school. Very few to no masks. One class spaced to socially distance with their desks all turned in one direction. Every other class, are tables with several kids sitting at them and they are helping each other with computers, touching each other, touching their devices, interacting and socializing as they normally would and not social distancing in any way. And don't blame the teacher. Because I see teachers looking around at a loss of how to do this. At how to mandate social distancing in a room the size of your living room. How to bring their own cleaning supplies, because lets be real, bathrooms in schools never have soap or paper towels why would that change now, and of course, they can't find any because we are OUT as a country.

Teachers care. Teachers want the best for their kids. For all kids. Teachers also want to live and not be beat, hurt or die on the job. And it is disgusting what is happening now. It was disgusting that we were asked to risk our lives for school shootings and it's even more disgusting that lawmakers who have never stepped foot into a classroom for a day and know the reality of the situation, are pushing for full face to face opening at a time when cases of this deadly, debilitating virus are spreading like wildfire BECAUSE we didn't socially distance and wear masks (and that would be why?). Just.. like... in ... the ... classroom. You go back with that situation happening and we will have the most enormous explosion of cases of COVID. It will spin your head. And this time, it's your kids and their teachers and staff that are dropping and climbing that death toll.

Teachers, and administrators too frankly, should not be put in a situation, ever, where they have to put children and staff in a knowingly unsafe position. NO amount of learning is worth that. Frankly, no job is worth that. And on the subject of learning, let's just get to that. What kind of actual learning do you think is going to take place in the middle of a situation where everyone is just a pin drop away from fight, flight or freeze mode, where the brain shuts down and is not able to learn new concepts and has altered memory or the inability to remember things? Do YOU understand the neurological impact of trauma? Because we ALL need to understand it right now. Toxic stress, direct trauma, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue.... burn out.... all the goodies are ripe on the table in a collective mass trauma environment and frankly I said this in March in a blog entry.... No one knows how to deal with a trauma this massive that is this continuous. This is changing brains neurologically, causing multi system failures, heart issues, kidney and liver issues. And the grief....I haven't even begin to get to the grief yet. Grief about being isolated. Grief about the number of deaths. Grief about losing normalcy. Trauma, anxiety, grief. If you are not escalated or impacted in some way by this situation, I need to have your pulse checked.

Help us help teachers and families... and most of all our kids. Our common interest. We need realistic things to happen in an unrealistic, unfathomable experience.

Denial will only cost us the life of our children..... and their teachers, principals, paras, cooking staff, custodians and bus drivers.

If you'd like resources that will help you to work with your students, children at home, grandchildren or even if you're just looking for some ideas for yourself (as all these things are interchangeable with adults), click the the COVID 19 link at the top of the page or the photo below to be taken to free resource courses.

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