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#Teachers

  • "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement--Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)

     
    Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)
     
     
    "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement
    By
    Robert Sihler
     
    Chuck's Note: Robert Sihler lives in Driftwood, Texas, where he works in special education in the Dripping Springs Independent School District. His passions are rock climbing and mountaineering and getting his children to roll their eyes at him! He often moonlights as a climbing guide and instructor. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

     

    I don't do politics and religion on my Facebook page. There are people I like and love who have widely different views on these things than I do-- both to the left and to the right-- and it just isn't worth fighting about this with any of them. On a personal level, I like them more than I dislike their positions.

    But I feel compelled to throw my own worthless two cents in on a particular subject: masks.

    I'm of the Atticus Finch school, which is that you should try to see other points of view. 

    So far, most people reading this will agree, but here's where the split will happen:

    A majority of Americans, including me, want the nation to reopen. But among that majority is a majority that wants to be careful about it.

    And this is where we are splitting now. Suddenly, wearing a mask or not wearing one has been turned into a political statement by conservative media. Either you are a brave patriot eschewing masks and flouting distancing guidelines, or you are a coward trembling in your living room under the sway of the deep state and the media and, predictably, George Soros, and, preposterously, Bill Gates.

    My friends, this is completely false.

     

    Unknown.jpeg

    First, let me say that I'm personally not that concerned about covid-19 affecting me. I have always had a strong immune system. On the rare occasions I do get sick, I recover very quickly, and without medical treatment. So although I could be tragically wrong, I suspect that if I contract the virus, I will be asymptomatic or that I will experience mild symptoms that will pass quickly.

    Next, I do understand the frustration and desperation building out there. I am lucky to be among those staying home but still getting paid, and I am supplementing my income by working online as a copywriter. Not for a second do I dismiss the worries of those who have been out of work for weeks now and are facing a financial and mental abyss.

    Finally, I think I look plain stupid wearing a mask. For a while, I didn't bother wearing one except where it was required. But now I am wearing one in enclosed spaces where others are near.

    You can call me a coward if you like, but as I've already said, I'm not really afraid of the coronavirus for my sake. I wear a mask because I have no idea if I might be carrying and so I don't want to risk passing it on to others if I happen to sneeze or cough while I'm standing next to a bunch of people in the bread aisle.

    Over the past couple of months, I've continued going to grocery stores and convenience stores. I've probably climbed more than I did the previous two months. I've been spending money and supporting local businesses, not cowering behind the couch at home and wishing it would just all be over.

    You might be of the mindset that masks and distancing are pointless and we might as well just get it over with. If you are, I know I can't persuade you. But if you're of that mindset and you intentionally get close to people when you know many are trying to avoid that, why are you doing that?

    What if you are an asymptomatic carrier and you infect someone and that person dies? How would you feel about that? Are you that person who knowingly serves a person a food he or she claims to be allergic to just because you don't believe it? I mean, I get tired of all the accommodations allergic people demand, too, but I'm still not going to crack my pistachios over the head of a person with a nut allergy. So why can't you make your statement from a distance?

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not for me; it's for you.

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not a political statement. And it isn't one for most people wearing them.

    Unfortunately, it has become a political statement to not wear a mask and to not distance yourself from people you don't live with. It's been turned into a loyalty test, loyalty to Trump.

    It doesn't have to be this way. Here in a pretty red area of Texas, I routinely see bearded guys in big pickups wearing masks indoors. There's no way more than a few of them vote D. They're going to vote for Trump, but they're wearing masks because they get that the virus is not political and that they may have vulnerable loved ones; there are a lot of old people here, and Texans, for all their faults, do have strong family bonds.. 

    Vote however you want in November. If you vote for Trump and Trump wins, I'm not going to have a meltdown and unfriend you because I think that will really show you, lol. And if Biden wins, I hope most of you who vote for Trump won't do the same. I expect better from all of us because of the connections we had way before all of this. And, as always, I'll climb with anyone regardless of politics as long as you're a solid partner.

    But please reject this false dichotomy being peddled for the sole purpose of dividing us. You can wear a mask and still vote for Trump. If you won't wear a mask, you can at least respect the distance others want and expect. Trolling is fun, but it's not funny when lives could be at risk.

    You can also be a Biden voter and be completely fed up with some of the restrictions. That's okay, too; some of them are ridiculous.

    I remember Ronald Reagan's calm and compassion after the Space Shuttle disaster had the country in tears. I remember George H.W. Bush's competent leadership when the Middle East was blowing up and we thought war was coming. I remember Bill Clinton trying to comfort and heal after Columbine. I remember George Bush rallying a shocked nation after 9-11; his words moved me, and when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle led Congress in singing "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes and felt proud to be an American. And I remember Barack Obama trying to lead us out of a terrible recession that hurt so many people.

    All of those presidents and their policies had flaws, but they tried to unite the nation in times of crisis. They stepped up to the moment. History will judge their efficacy, but they did try.

    Today, we have a president who hasn't even tried to do that. As polls and facts and numbers have increasingly gone against him, he says he never said what he is on video saying, he moves the goalposts, and he pursues division, not persuasion or correction or reconciliation.

    If you like Trump, okay. If you don't, okay. But it's clear he's not going to lead us out of this. Please, let's stop talking past each other trying to score points and instead talk to each other. If I can have rational conversations with family and friends who vote differently than I do, so can you.

    And you can wear a mask in the grocery store or at least stay away from others if you won't. It's not hard and it's not much to ask, and it's not violating your rights under the Constitution.

    Stay safe, be well, and climb on!

    Copyright, Robert Sihler; all rights reserved.

     

  • Arming Teachers--A Lesson in Failure

    Arming Teachers--A Lesson in Failure by Chuck Cascio     

          I was a teacher for 27 years--four years in middle school and the rest in two different high schools in Fairfax County, VA, outside of

    Washington, DC. I have been retired for quite a few years now, but I have vivid memories--almost all extremely positive--of that

    workplace called "school." And the possibility of arming certain faculty members with guns and/or rifles, as President Trump recently

    advocated in a speech to the NRA, frightens and disgusts me for many reasons, but mostly because the dangers far outweigh any

    potential benefits…because doing so would teach the wrong lesson.

          Proponents of arming teachers seem to want to believe that the next time a shooter shows up to mow down our children, a teacher will whip out his/her rifle and shoot everyone to safety. Following are some realities that show what a misconception that concept is:

         Over the years, I, along with many other faculty members, occasionally had to break up fights between students. These fights always attracted an emotional crowd. Teachers would hear the noise, emerge from our classrooms, move through the crowd, and jump into the middle of two--or more--brawling students. We would separate them, talk as calmly to the combatants, wait for help, and then walk the fighters to the principal's office. The gathering of onlookers would usually disperse peacefully as teachers urged them to "move along now." 

         Sometimes the fights were brutal; other times, they were less intense. But there was always the potential for danger; after all, we were dealing with teenagers and the hormonal and emotional surges built into those years. 

         Now, add a faculty member with access to a gun or a rifle into those scenes. If that faculty member is in the classroom and hears ominous screams and thumps of students in the corridor, how does the teacher know for sure what is going on? Does the teacher proactively grab the weapon and race out of the classroom and into a hallway filled with emotionally charged youths? In an instant, how does the faculty member know it is a fight rather than the presence of someone about to be a shooter? If it turns out to be a fight, does the faculty member use the weapon to help stop it? If so, what message does this send to the gathered youths? How do we deal with the fear that the simple sight of a teacher displaying a weapon might cause in kids’ minds? 

         And what is the potential for danger by having the weapon present? Suppose it discharges accidentally? Suppose, in a fit of rage or panic, one of the fighters or one of the students in the crowd reaches for the weapon? How does the teacher react? Suppose the student succeeds in wrestling the weapon from the teacher? Where does that lead?

         Similar recipes for disaster exist even if, say, there is a lockdown because an active shooter has been identified in the school. Here is the reality teachers would face: 

         A teacher hears an announcement or an alarm or a code that signals "active shooter." The teacher must first ensure that the panicked students follow whatever safety protocol has been established. If the teacher is one of the faculty members who has supposedly been trained in how to use a rifle, that teacher would need to unlock whatever structure is storing the weapon, load it, leave his/her students alone, and wander into the unknown. In that unknown, and under those intense circumstances, is the teacher supposed to identify, without failure, the shooter...as opposed to some frantic student running around the halls? Or not just another teacher who speeds around the corner to try to help someone? Or not just the custodian who has slammed a closet door as he/she attempts to go into hiding? 

         There is another aspect of this "arm the teacher" movement that is extremely disturbing:

         These are schools we are talking about! These are institutions of learning! These are places meant to contribute to thoughtfulness, trial and error, youthful aspirations! These are places where the youth of our nation form their friendships, test their ideals, immerse themselves in community! Sure, the schools are by no means perfect. But they should not be turned into places where every look, every comment, every sound, every movement raises these questions in students’ minds: 

         Is that the teacher with the gun? If I laugh too loudly with my friends, will our laughter be mistaken for crying or calling for help and bring out a nervous teacher with a rifle? Is the only way to keep myself safe in life to arm myself?

        Arming teachers would be a lesson in failure destined to bring about more tragedies and to leave our already damaged schools, educators, and children with more scars.   

    Copyright Chuck Cascio. All rights reserved.

     

  • Discussion Guide: The Fire Escape Stories, Volumes I&II

    It is always my honor to discuss my work with book groups. I am frequently asked if there are certain questions and/or topics that the group members should consider in advance of our session. Following is a guide that I have developed after the many discussion sessions I have led. I hope you find it helpful in your conversations! If you would like permission to distribute hard copies or digital copies of this guide, or if you would like to arrange for a book group discussion, please simply email me at chuckwrites@hyahoo.com. Thank you...and enjoy reading!--Chuck

     

    DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR—

    THE FIRE ESCAPE STORIES, VOLUMES I & II

    By Chuck Cascio

    1) What does the opening episode of Volume I imply beyond what is stated in the text?

    2) Have you ever sat on a fire escape? What did it feel like to you? What did you do there? If you have not ever sat on a fire escape, based on Volumes I&II what is the closest comparison you can make from your own life?

    3) What does the fire escape symbolize in these stories? Does the symbol change over time? If so, what does it come to symbolize?

    4) Describe how you picture the main characters--the narrator (Mikey), Sally-Boy, Big Sal, Massimo, and any others who stand out to you.

    5) Single out one secondary character whose role seems particularly significant in her/his impact on the boys' lives.

     

    nine episodes that make up Mike Burnss strongest childhood memories of living in Brooklyn New York in the 1950s. 2 2

     

    6) When Mike's family moves at the end of Volume I, what concerns for him  and expectations do you have of him as the family drives out of Brooklyn?

    7) How does the tone of the narration change in Volume II and what is the impact of that change on the reader?

    8) What does the narrator's reaction to various life events in Volume II such as racism, discovering that his neighbor is a female, seeing the increasing popularity of the Panificio and Sally-Boy's reaction to it, the JFK assassination, etc. affect you as the reader? How do those events seem to be shaping Mike's life?

    9) Identify at least three subtle events and/or passages that are most telling about the split occurring between the lives of the two boys.

    10) Has the fire escape saved anyone in these stories, symbolically or otherwise? Or does the fire escape imply the failure of attempts to save lives that are impacted by forces either outside of their control or forces that people refuse to accept?

    Copyright, Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved. For permission to make or distribute copies of this guide, please email chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

  • Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)

    Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)
    (Note: The following was written by my son Marc Cascio, who is in his 28th year
    of teaching high school and coaching youth soccer—Chuck Cascio)
     
    REALIZING ‘PURPOSE’ IN THE TIME OF CORONA 
    By Marc Cascio
         
         Before he died, my Grandpa Wells used to stand guard at the doors of the Sunrise Retirement home where he eventually passed away. Nobody, not even my mother, could explain why he assumed this role: certainly nobody asked him to and, though he had once been a stalwart and aggressive man who survived D-Day and was a known entity to high-up generals, in his later days he would have been ineffective at stopping nearly anyone who invaded the home. Still, every morning, as the other elderly people shuffled here and there and busied themselves with whatever filled the time, my grandfather took up his post at the door, and there he remained.
         
         I understand now. My grandfather was a man of action and had been for his whole life. He was on his own early, and the perpetual motion of the military provided sanctuary for his restless nature. If he was cleaning boots, he was doing so for a purpose, regardless of how important he viewed that purpose. By acting as a sentry, he created meaning for himself, and that meaning gave him purpose. He probably knew he wasn't really protecting his house any longer, but nobody said as much and the sense of  purpose fed his restless soul.

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         If nothing else, I have come to understand the meaning of purpose through this whole damned virus thing. I MISS my work! I MISS my students and my players! The time that I get to spend with my own family is wonderful, yes, but I miss feeling like more of a contributor. I know some may be inclined to think by saying that I am guilty of a transgression against my family, but part of my self importance is derived from my own children seeing me work hard and seeing me try to help others. I cannot divorce myself from that, and the days seem soooo long sometimes.

         The other day, in a moment of unwitting precociousness, our 13 year old, Zoey, said she misses school because it gives her purpose. I am not surprised. My mom doesn't need to work, but she still does. She works at a Sunrise facility and (sorry mom), but she is probably older than some of the residents. Yet she won't stop working. She will brave the virus, because not working is a worse fate. My dad's retirement too is a paradox: He works as hard now as he ever did, and that is harder than most everyone I know. His work gives him purpose. He won't stop.
         
         It is wrong, of course, to feel sorry for myself when I still have my health and when we are in a much better spot than many whose life and/or livelihood have been ripped away, but I still feel the absence of purpose. And I now understand what drives an old man to stand by a door protecting nothing in one sense…and everything in another.
     
    Copyright: Marc Cascio, all rights reserved.
     
  • Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)

     
    Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)
    by Chuck Cascio
    chuckwrites@yahoo.com 

    As a former high school and college educator over the course of 27 years, I was curious to know how students today feel about most academic institutions being closed for the remainder of the school year. So I asked my niece, Caroline, and five of my grandchildren (Maddie, Jack, Ryan, Zoey, and Wyatt) to write a few sentences about how the coronavirus and school closings are affecting them. Here, in their own words, are their comments (from youngest to oldest):

    Wyatt (age 10; fifth grader)--The  coronavirus pandemic is a little bit scary to me because I have no school for the rest of the year. Coronavirus is a weird thing to handle for me because I cannot walk to any friends' houses or speak to any friends in person. I have no idea what to do now. I can't be near anyone or make any contact with anyone. I do go outside a lot and am bored when I can't go outside.

    Zoey (age 13; eighth grader)--The corona quarantine and the virus in general will never be forgotten and will be a future history lesson. The quarantine has left a lot of different feelings to a lot of different people. To some, it might be an extended summer. To others, it is a serious pandemic. I believe that this is a serious time which should not be treated as a time to hang out with friends all day and go out to the mall or play games of any sort. Even though school was closed for the rest of the year, it is important to spend some of the day studying what you already learned during the year. Overall, I believe that this time should not be taken lightly because the virus is killing and infecting millions a day all over the world. 

     

    image.png

    School grounds midday and midweek in the time of coronaphoto by chuck cascio

    Ryan (age 14; high school freshman)— My time during the coronavirus has been a mixture of feelings. At first, this time off was the best thing ever--school was out, I could hang with my friends all day and nothing was better than this! Then my feelings started to change--my parents started saying no to hangouts, and I couldn’t hang with my friends as much. All in all, this “coronacation” has been a mixture of having fun with my friends, boredom, and overall getting more sleep!

    Jack (age14; high school freshman)—This coronavirus quarantine has left me extremely bored and often wondering what I should do with my time. i have been able to practice sports in my backyard and lift weights in my garage. I wish this could all be over and everything would go back to normal. 

    Maddie (age16; high school junior)—While I will admit I was one hoping for a few days off of school to make up for the missed snow days, this was not what I expected. I miss not having things to go to and do. I miss spring sports and school friends, and I miss a normal routine. Lately, at home, I have been spending a lot of time trying to do things outdoors. I refuse to sit inside all day and not do anything...it was making me go crazy! I am hoping to make the best of this and hope this all comes to an end soon so we can all get back to normalcy. 

    Caroline (age 19; college freshman)--Although being quarantined in our houses is not fun, I think that it is the right thing to do to flatten the curve. I have taken all of this extra time to start a 400-hour violin practice challenge where I post videos of me playing each day. In addition to focusing on violin, I have also been cooking and baking a lot more, which I was unable to do during my time on campus each week. Finally, I think this has been a great time for everyone to reflect on their lifestyles and daily choices. Fewer people are going places, which isn’t fun, but it’s making the planet greener and reducing carbon emissions; people are eating healthier because they are forced to cook more or learn to cook; more people are contacting each other because they aren’t caught up in their own lives and activities; and people are forgiving themselves for not being busy and giving them “me time” where they learn or practice a skill that they’ve always wanted to do. Even though a lot of people’s new year resolutions might be messed up by this virus, we will be able to take this time to start new goals and find fun workouts to do at home by yourself or with your family! 

    Have a comment or a story to add to the "Life in the Times of Corona" series? Write to me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

    copyright chuck cascio; all rights reserved.

     
  • READING AND DISCUSSION GUIDE: The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn

    Reading and Discussion Guide for
    THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN
    By
    Chuck Cascio

    NOTE: If you would like  to discuss any of these items with me, please email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

     
    1) What is the tone established in the Prologue and Chapters 1-3? How does it contribute to the story arc and how does it tie to Volumes I&II?
     
    2) Throughout much of the book, Mike "talks" to Sally-Boy. Do his "conversations" and recollections seem to calm Mike or do they seem to cause an increased sense of despair and desperation?
     
    3) Chapters 8-11 are often referred to as indicative of a turning point in Mike's thinking. If you agree with that position, what are some of the specifics that occur in those chapters that imply a change and is that change a sign of maturation or further frustration or both?
     
    4) Chapters 12-19 immerse readers in several realities that Mike and others of his generation face. Consider Mike's initial reaction to Erica, how his feelings develop, and what elements of his nature seem to be emerging. At the same time, consider what his roommate, Fish, is like and how interactions with Darrell Bingham affect them both and, also, what Bingham seems to represent.
     
    5) Chapter 20 ties together several elements of life during the Vietnam Era upon which much of the book focuses. Of those elements, what emerges as having the greatest impact of that time and which, if any of those elements, still seem prevalent today?
     
    66516041_High_Resolution_Front_Cover_7205575.jpg
     
     
    6) As relationships emerge and develop between Mike and Erica and Fish and Katie, what aspects of their personalities seem to come through most prominently. Which, if any, of those aspects seem positive and which, if any, seem troubling to you?
     
    7) Chapters 31-33 move the reader from a party where the song "Satisfaction" has a real and symbolic role to deeper thinking on Mike's part about where he is headed. What are some of the key scenes (if any) that indicate to you a change in the depth of the characters and what are some of the implications of those changes?
     
    8) As the storyline develops, the role of Professor Staunton emerges as more prominent as does the impact of the Vietnam War. These elements combine to result in decisions that some people might consider heroic and others might consider objectionable. How do you feel about the decisions the characters make both in context of the story and in reality?
     
    9) Chapter 48 focuses on a ferry ride that Mike and Erica take. What do you think of the character development in that chapter? Do you see any foreshadowing of what is to come?
     
    10) Chapters 49-53 are filled with character elements that move the story to various points of dramatic conclusion. What is unexpected? What did you anticipate? How were you affected by the different events that impact the characters?
     
    11) In the Epilogue, do you feel that Mike has resolved his issues with Sally-Boy's disappearance? Do you think that Mike does justice to Sally, or is there more that he should do and, if so, what should it be?
     

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     
  • The Movie "Just Mercy"--See. Think. Act

    The Movie Just Mercy

    See. Think. Act.

    by

    Chuck Cascio

         If you have not yet seen the movie Just Mercy, you should put it on your "must do" list, especially during Black History Month. It is a true story that provides viewers with reminders of past injustices, the realization that injustices still exist, and the sense of how much must be done to eliminate those injustices in the future. 

         Be prepared to feel uncomfortable but in a meaningful, important way when viewing Just Mercy. And the movie will also make you aware that there are people who truly commit their lives to eliminating injustice...and those people are the real, little-known heroes of history.

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         Just Mercy is the story of African American Bryan Stevenson (played powerfully by Michael A. Jordan), a young, Harvard-educated attorney, who in the late 1980s goes to Alabama to defend prisoners wrongly imprisoned and those not provided proper representation. The movie focuses on one case in particular--that of Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx, in a moving performance), an African American in Alabama sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl despite abundant evidence proving his innocence. The movie captures the racism and the legal and political obstacles Stevenson encounters while fighting for McMillian's life and the lives of many other prisoners.  

       The film is produced by Participant, a media company committed to developing entertainment that inspires positive social change, and the story succeeds in encouraging viewers to recognize the inequalities that existed in the era of this movie and those that still exist today. For me, a Boomer who moved from Brooklyn to Northern Virginia as a kid in the 1950s, the movie brought back uncomfortable memories from my youth. And it reminded me that, 30 years later during the years in which Just Mercy takes place, those injustices were still evident...and that too many still exist today albeit in less immediately obvious ways. Some of the realities the film brought back to me from my childhood:

         >>> Seeing signs above restrooms and water fountains and elsewhere that said, "Coloreds" and others that said, "Whites."

         >>> The street signs on motels that specified, "Coloreds not allowed."

         >>> Raw anger rippling through some classmates as Northern Virginia started to integrate schools.

         >>> The time an African American musician friend of mine was given a different menu at a restaurant from the one I was given, the prices on his menu several times more expensive than the prices on mine. We walked out, and as we were leaving someone behind us said, "Well, you can't say that we refused to serve him."

         And, sadly, there are many more from my 1950s-60s childhood. Incidents that confused me, incidents that my parents made sure I recognized as wrong, incidents that still run through my head. They are especially vivid when I see a movie like Just Mercy, so much so that I believe the movie should be shown to high school students and discussed in depth with them. The story is ideal for a conversation around racial injustice, where it has been, where it exists today, and what needs to be done about it in the future.

         As Just Mercy reveals, Bryan Stevenson did more than commit himself to a couple of years worth of work for the unjustly incarcerated. He formed the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989, a nonprofit organization that, as stated on its website (www.eji.org),

    “…provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. We challenge the death penalty and excessive punishment and we provide re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people.” 

         There is much work to be done. According to the Pew Research Center, African Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Hispanics make up 16% of the adult population and account for 23% of inmates. Whites comprise 64% of adults and 30% of prisoners.  

         In these swirling, fast-paced times it is important to remind ourselves of the realities of past injustices, to take time to look closely at the current lives of minorities, and to take steps for a more equitable future. So here are three things to consider doing, any one of which will stimulate thinking and expand the much-needed conversation:

    1) Just see the movie.

    2) Think about, document, and/or discuss your own experiences regarding racism.

    3) Go to the Equal Justice Initiative website (www.eji.org) and explore it, looking especially at the various materials developed for classroom use, which can also be used  in less-formal discussions with today's youths.

       Doing any of these will stimulate thoughts about where we were, where we are, and where we are headed. Sometimes mercy emerges from discomfort.

    Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

  • Time for a "National Staff Meeting For Educators"

    IT’S TIME FOR A “NATIONAL STAFF MEETING FOR EDUCATORS”
    by
    Chuck Cascio

    (Note: I taught secondary school for 27 years in Fairfax County, VA, the nation’s 10th largest school district.--Chuck Cascio)

          President Joseph Biden has correctly called the fact that millions of school children are still unable to attend school in person due to the novel coronavirus a "national emergency." He and his staff are outlining ways to make the return happen as soon--and as safely--as possible. The need for vaccination of all school personnel--teachers, administrators, and support staff--should be at the very top of the list. That is why I think something that might be labeled the "National Staff Meeting for Educators" should be instituted immediately.

         The National Staff Meeting for Educators would require that all in-school personnel report to a school or schools that would be identified as vaccination centers over the course of approximately 10 days. As staff members are vaccinated, they would then be required to return to school (except in cases where mitigating health issues might compromise the vaccine's effectiveness). Since studies indicate that even the first dose of vaccine can provide up to 80% protection against the coronavirus, if other precautions such as mask wearing, social distancing, thorough cleaning of lavatories, cafeterias, and classrooms throughout the school day and other precautions are mandated in schools, then it makes sense to phase back in-class instruction.  The National Staff Meeting for Educators would then be repeated four weeks later so school personnel could receive their second dose.

          What the dreadful coronavirus has "revealed" to many parents and politicians is that teachers are actually "essential workers."  Comments in editorials, opinion pieces, and general conversation use that term daily in reference to teachers, but most often in the context of demanding that they return to in-school classes. So if there can be a slight bit of good news in the context of coronavirus life, it is that the stereotypical image of teaching is disappearing: Teachers do not simply just roll into their classrooms each day, prop their feet up on their desks, tell a roomful of attentive and obedient kids what to do, and eventually a bell rings and life goes on for everyone. 

     Unknown.png

    Will school buildings and their parking lots fill up again soon?
       
        It seems that virtual learning spurred by the pandemic has created an awareness among the public that things are, in fact, more productive and healthier for everyone when teachers, administrators, and the many support personnel who contribute enormously to the daily job of educating students are actually back in the school building. Because of the individual experiences parents have dealt with and the studies documenting how student learning, socialization, and personal well-being are being negatively impacted by schools not being open, parents, politicians and educators want a return to in-school instruction. The question facing everyone is how to do it safely for all because it makes no sense to have teachers return to schools without being vaccinated; doing so, among other potential dangers, opens them to the possibility of being asymptomatic carriers to their own families and communities.

        Under the leadership of President Biden, the country is establishing realistic precautions as we move toward reopening. The CDC has outlined logical steps, including the wearing of masks in schools; regularly screening students for symptoms; providing cleaning, disinfection, and hand hygiene protocols; and a detailed list of "Strategies for Protecting K-12 School Staff from COVID-19." 

         In Chicago, the nation's third largest school district, a tentative agreement between the school system and the teachers union has been reached, which proposes to vaccinate 1,500 Chicago Public School staff members each week under a new program developed during the collective bargaining process. That is definitely commendable, and it shows that districts and unions can reach a logical, safe approach to the reopening, but with thousands of in-school personnel in Chicago, more needs to be done…and it needs to be done more quickly. But at least Chicago has a possible model in place to build upon.

         Approximately half the states in the country have already started vaccinating their teachers, but the process is slow and the other half of the country is not responding to this educational emergency. If President Biden would adopt the National Staff Meeting for Educators and find a way to roll out, say, National Guard trucks filled with vaccines to the specified schools where educational staff members are to meet, get vaccinated and then return to their school buildings, it would speed up the entire process. In addition, it would emphasize what people are finally starting to realize:

    TEACHERS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS!

    (Copyright Chuck Cascio; All rights reserved, including use of the label "National Staff Meeting for Educators.")