That’s my Grandpa, at the head of the one-room classroom in Ironwood, Michigan, sometime in the first decade of the last century. I spent more than a quarter of a century working with schools myself, reporting on them, lecturing, doing teacher workshops and writing curricula, but I take my hat off to the people who have sat in that seat every day.
After all that time working with education, one impression I’ve come away with was that, while few people think that having eaten in a restaurant qualifies them to be chefs, a whole lot of them seem to think that having been students in school qualifies them to be teachers.
I was looking for a source on a quote attributed to Tolstoy that says, if anyone, asked if he could play the violin, responded, “I don’t know; I’ve never tried,” you’d think him a fool, but people feel that way about writing novels.
I didn’t find a source but I did find that I covered this whole amateur-expertise business more than a year ago, and I stand by every word.
Obviously, my opinion then didn’t fix things.
Juxtaposition of the Day
To begin with, nobody in education thinks remote learning is as effective for learning as having kids in the classroom.
The teachers I’ve spoken with since the start of the pandemic, however, have found ways of making it work as well as possible, because they are experienced professionals and know what they’re doing.
Which is also why they shrug off stories of kids zoning out during Zoom classes, because those same kids zone out during live classes. You can call some of them back in either case and some of them you can’t, but, for the most part, effective teaching keeps most kids engaged.
But, no, it’s not the same and it’s not as good, and nobody, nobody, nobody is suggesting that it is.
Still, it’s better than nothing, and however much kids may be falling behind where they’d be if they were in class, they’re making more progress than if they weren’t getting any instruction at all.
Think of it this way: Being in a lifeboat is not as nice as being in a comfy deckchair on board a luxury cruiser, unless we’re talking about the Titanic, in which case being in a lifeboat is better than clinging to a door in the icy waters, which, as I understand it, offers about a 50% survival rate.
Which is still an improvement over staying aboard.
Clay Jones blames those grumpy, stick-wielding old battleaxes of the Chicago Teachers Union, and in his essay, notes:
In Chicago, over 90 percent of public school teachers are vaccinated. Even with the omicron variant spreading through the nation, those fully vaxxed are very unlikely to be hospitalized if they catch COVID. Chicago’s public schools require indoor masking and are also distributing high-quality N95 masks in its schools. The federal government has given public schools over $200 billion to make them safe.
The union counters that neither the money nor the masks have been adequately disbursed throughout the city’s schools, but, more important, their statements don’t mention danger to teachers.
Rather, they note that what testing materials have been distributed were largely spoiled and useless, while positive results were well above the 10 percent that was supposed to trigger closures.
And that their concern is for the children, many of whom — particularly among minorities — remain unvaccinated.
It is also important to note that vaccination does not halt transmission, and that even someone who is asymptomatic — teacher, staff or kid — can bring the infection home to others who may have a more profound response to the virus.
Even where masks have been distributed and mandated, policing their use is one more task for teachers, and one that Dr. Maria Van Kerhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, suggests is of limited practicality even among the general population:
“When you put a mask on your face,” Kerhove said, “you need to have clean hands [and] it needs to cover your nose and your mouth. Wearing a mask below your nose, wearing a mask off of your ear, wearing a mask below your chin is useless, and it gives you a false sense of security that you have something on that is protecting [you]. It will not.”
Good luck making masks work in a roomful of eight-year-olds while you’re also trying to teach them math, not health sciences.
Chicago is hardly the only school district struggling with covid in general and the omicron specifically, nor are schools any different than other industries where the combination of isolation and quarantine, plus the Great Resignation, have wreaked havoc on staffing levels.
For schools, qualified substitutes are in short supply and are — even at the best of times — a poor replacement for regular teachers who know their kiddoes and have fully developed long-term lesson plans and well-mapped curriculum goals.
Bringing in unqualified subs or doubling up class sizes only makes me suspect that a coordinated remote learning system is likely preferable and certainly no less effective.
That lifeboat is beginning to look awfully inviting.
Juxtaposition of the Day #2
I was able to schedule my booster recently, but I have had no reason to be tested, so the shortage of materials has been something I’ve seen in political cartoons but not in real life.
All I know is that my granddaughter got testing materials from her mother-in-law, but I don’t know where they came from, and that someone at the park said that “They were out of the free ones, so I went to Walgreen’s and bought one.”
However, given that it took me about two months to get a busted bumper repaired, I’m willing to believe that testing kits are also hung up in the system.
Still, when masks first came on the scene, our governor managed to score a bunch from China and had them sold in the state liquor stores, so there are workarounds out there if you look hard enough.
The White House offers this optimistic graphic.
But, for now, kids, this is your brain on vaccines: