I don’t mind telling you that things were not going well in the Teghtmeyer household for a few weeks this past summer.
For me, work was incredibly busy. The Association was advocating hard for improvements to the back-to-school plan and with new developments and issues coming to light on a daily basis, there was lots to address. It was fast moving and high stakes.
My wife had an intensified work period as well, and we were both working primarily from home, with little privacy. Our children, aged seven and eight, were in their sixth month of being at home full time.
Busy work days, often with side-by-side Zoom meetings, meant that the children were much less closely supervised than we would have hoped. Fights between elementary-aged siblings are more frequent when they’ve been in the same house every day for 150-plus days. Daily structure had gone out the window weeks before. We were in survival mode, and sometimes, I wasn’t so sure we would make it.
Needless to say, by the time each intense work day ended, we would look up to see a house in disarray, a kitchen table that looked like a cluttered shared office, no dinner prepped and four tired, pent-up residents looking to grab a rest.
By mid-August, the idea of children returning to school seemed like both a blessing and a curse. We were like so many parents across the province: we needed school to return, but we wanted to feel confident that school would be safe for them, for you and for us.
A little over two months into the school year, I, as a parent, need to tell you how very grateful I am for your incredible work. It has meant the world to my family and me to have schools open and staying open.
It is a testament to your extraordinary devotion and determination that schools continue to operate.
I recognize that it has not been easy and has taken an extensive toll on you. I know that teachers, principals and all school staff are working extremely long hours, taking on new tasks and going to great lengths to make schooling succeed.
So, from this parent: thank you! I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate you.
But I am also angry. I am furious, actually, with how you’ve been treated.
You were totally set up for failure. The provincial government had a responsibility to make sure schools and staff were safe and supported, and they have failed miserably. The federal government offered funding, but that should have been in addition to provincial support. The provincial government has not added a single dollar of new COVID-related funding outside of money already budgeted or planned. This is abandonment.
The fact the re-opening of schools has not been a total disaster is not because the government had a good re-entry plan, but rather because teachers and school staff generally were determined to not let schools fail. It was incredibly unfair for the government to put you in this position.
As COVID numbers grow rapidly, the burden on schools from increased case numbers and higher absences will also grow. I appreciate that you will do all you can to keep schools functioning, but I also know that your sacrifices are not sustainable.
The province knows they need schools to be open to help support a functioning economy, but if they want schools to stay open, they must come to the realization that they need to support you better.
In the meantime, I offer you two things. First, my ongoing advocacy, as an ATA employee for improved conditions that will support you better and help schools succeed. And second, my undying gratitude and appreciation, as a parent, for all that you do to keep schools open and students safe.
Thank you. ❚
I welcome your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.