Teachers, stop underrating yourselves

A classroom ready for the 2019-2020 school year at Daniel Webster Elementary School in Chicago on Aug. 26, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

A classroom ready for the 2019-2020 school year at Daniel Webster Elementary School in Chicago on Aug. 26, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Teaching in the world's most important profession.

Bar none. Teachers are more important than doctors, who tend to our physical health. Teachers tend to our whole person--things academic, ethical, emotional and more. Most important, how well they do doesn't just impact the individual student. It affects everyone around the students--parents, relatives, friends, acquaintances, even strangers. Not for just now, but for the entire lives of the students. And their children.

So it is a puzzle to me why some teachers think so little of themselves that they don't understand the need for them to be with their students. In classrooms. Face to face. Where communication is best. Where encouragement and hugs are dispensed in person. Where discipline and respect for others is emphasized. Show me the science that says students are better off  learning remotely.

Instead, some teachers consider themselves to be nonessential. That's a terrible lie, one that some teachers have come to believe. Or at least they act like it, meekly acquiescing to teacher union leaders who are demanding that teachers stay out of the classroom. Going so far as to ask a court to force teachers stay out of their classrooms.

It's time for teachers to tell their union leaders to take a walk. It's time to tell the out-of-control leaders that teachers are better than that. Everyone from health care workers to grocery store cashiers have bravely and willingly done their part during the coronavirus pandemic, showing up to do their essential work and risking their health and lives. As I said, teachers are most important.

Some union leaders are making fools of themselves, and you teachers by your silence. "New York's teachers' unions said a single COVID-19 case in a school should trigger its immediate closure for 14 days." United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), representing some  30,000 Los Angeles K–12 teachers demand that schools stay closed until police are defunded and the state establish single-payer, government-provided health care; full funding for housing California’s homeless; a shutdown to publicly funded, privately operated charter schools, a large wealth tax, items far beyond reasonable or, in some case, legal issues for negotiations. 

The Chicago Teachers Union, which thinks that it and not parents or teachers should run the schools, threatened a strike if Chicago public schools allowed even a a partial return to classrooms. The threat worked as the Chicago School System subsequently announced that all classes will be held remotely. 

Teachers, science is on your side. The Centers for Disease Control is emphatic that schools should reopen. The American Academy of Pediatrics "recommends that students be 'physically present in school' as much as possible, and emphasize that there are major health, social and educational risks to keeping children at home." NBC News reports that "Evidence suggests that children are not as susceptible as adults to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Even among those who have been infected, it's relatively rare for children to develop serious complications or require hospitalization."

On top of that, look to the evidence before your very eyes. The pain that children are suffering. Higher rates of depression and suicide. Learning time forever lost. Minority and disadvantaged children suffering even worse damage. Parents having to give up their jobs to stay at home. Even the divorce rate is up, something not so wonderful for the children.

It is sorry to see so many teachers giving in to the scare tactics of the union leadership when the science shows that children's health and lives are significantly less endangered than adults and that children rarely transmit the coronavirus to adults. Some studies disagree, but the bulk of the science lands on the side of opening the schools.

The opening of schools has turned into a nasty political joust. Because President Donald Trump said that he's for reopening the schools, the automatic response from the other side is to oppose anything that he says. Then there is New York Democratic  Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's decision to allow New York schools to open. No echo chamber for Trump, that man. 

Related: School closures damage youngest children

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