COVID, Teachers, Teacher’s Aides, and Twitter: What Virtual Education Means

A lively Twitter discussion on virtual school during COVID
A lively Twitter discussion about virtual school during COVID

There Goes My Job!

I lost my job over the summer. I was to work as a teacher’s aide during the summer school session… then, COVID. “Unfortunately due to summer school going virtually, schools will no longer be using teaching assistants… please let me know if there is anything I can do for you in the future,” the principal wrote. That got me wondering: is going virtual during COVID best for students and teachers? If not, what IS best? I decided to ask the experts: the teachers and the teacher’s aides.

Teachers, Aides, and COVID

    So what did teachers and teacher’s aides have to say? “Going back to school is not a good idea, because even though virtual school is not a huge success and even though some students may not be learning much, they are learning something… and that even though the rate of infection among children is very low, they can still spread it. And what, they’re going to catch it at school and take it home – their teacher might catch it,” one general education teacher, who is teaching virtually, said.

 “Our parents are grateful that their kids are back, because I think they felt they were slipping a lot, but I know they have a lot of fears that their kid could contract COVID. I think they’re very mindful – I think we’re very lucky that we have a group of parents that are as conscientious of limiting their interaction with other people… I think that they wrestle with the academic piece, and the schedule piece… and keeping them home… but I don’t see how that’s going to translate well in a larger setting. We have four kids, and it takes everything we have… it would be really difficult, and a lot of work, for a general ed teacher… even with a 1:1 ratio, we have troubles,” said one special education teacher’s aide, who is in the classroom.

”Teachers are drowning. Teachers have been overloaded with work for years, decades, eternity. This year has only increased the responsibility of teachers. We are being expected to learn a brand new way to teach that no one taught us how to do… I hope the public knows this, but I am not sure they all do. They need to know that teachers love their kids with all their hearts and would do anything to help them thrive every day… we want to do so much more than we can accomplish in a day, and we are trying our very best,” said another gen-ed teacher. 

Let’s Hear It For Twitter

I reached out to the Twittersphere to see what Twitter users thought. As an experiment, I circulated a petition to keep schools all-virtual. I looked over the responses: “no dear, the kids want back in school,” one wrote. “Amazing, but true. Social interaction is important I guess since we’re moving towards becoming cyborgs who also don’t have to breathe your plan makes sense.” Another wrote “this is complete over the top fear mongering.” Most responses were along those lines. 

COVID Statistics and Numbers

Okay. So what do the numbers say? I live in Prince William County, a suburb of Washington, D.C. I looked at our COVID rates. As of 16 November 2020, there were roughly 15,000 cases and 229 deaths – about 1.5% death rate. But that doesn’t include the long-term disability COVID engenders, which are not fully known, and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) . Nationally, children represented about 11.3% of all cases. Additionally, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 24% of teachers have a health condition that puts them at greater risk for death. 

COVID and Society

So what’s the right answer? Parents, teachers, and governmental officials can’t seem to agree on it. But one thing is for certain: COVID is having a major impact on mental health and education. 

 

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