I'm Worried About My Kids Returning to School — but I'm Concerned For Teachers, Too

If there's one thing I've learned from homeschooling these past few months, it's that teachers don't get enough credit. They carry far more weight on their shoulders than I realized, and there's no doubt in my mind that they don't get the thanks they deserve — especially amid the chaos of a pandemic. As our school district prepares to reopen for the 2020-21 school year, of course I'm worried about what school will look like for my kids, but I'm concerned about their teachers, too.

None of us signed up for the current school situation we find ourselves in — the uncertainty, the unpredictable schedules, the mask debate, the social-distancing requirements, the fear of being attacked by a virus that has already victimized so many, and the constant worry about who's going to be next. But where our family has been given a choice in how we'd like to approach the upcoming school year, our teachers have not. When schools reopen, teachers in our district will be required to return regardless of the personal risks that may be involved for themselves or their families.

But instead of supporting the educators who are doing the best they can for our children under impossible circumstances, there's been so much criticism. I've heard accusations of laziness, that teachers just don't want to do their job. But from what I've seen, teachers are working harder than they ever have. They are implementing endless requirements and protocols that have never existed before. They are completing in-person learning plans as well as online learning plans — and then executing both, sometimes simultaneously. They are preparing for interruptions in learning and doing their darndest to help students catch up on what they may have missed during a tumultuous spring semester. But somehow, that all doesn't seem to be enough.

On top of that, I've even heard it said that if teachers don't want to return to school in the midst of pandemic-created havoc, they can choose to quit their jobs. But quitting a job you're experienced in, one that you love and are good at during an economic downturn? Losing your income when the job market is arguably the worst it's been in years? Well, that's not really a choice, is it?

It's interesting that the ones who directly serve our children seem to have so little say in how to go about doing so. How can the requests, opinions, and perspectives of people who actually work in the classroom be overlooked? For example, our local school district isn't requiring masks, and there are many teachers who are understandably upset about this. But again, their input has been criticized and seemingly brushed off, and the overarching decision hasn't changed.

Additionally, there's been so much talk about the mental health of our children declining due to social distancing and lack of normalcy, which is no doubt a valid concern. But I'm also concerned about the mental health of our teachers. It seems like they are being expected to do more than their share despite limited resources, limited time, ever-changing requirements, day-to-day uncertainty, and the ongoing health concerns for themselves and everyone around them. How can they carry the stress of it all on their shoulders without it negatively impacting their mental health?

We rely on teachers to keep our kids safe, and I've no doubt they have our children's best interests at heart. But how can they do so when a pandemic continues to rage? Honestly, after multiple spikes in anxiety, I've come to peace with the idea of sending my kids back to school this year, at least for the time being. I don't at all expect this year to be smooth or problem-free, but I trust that our teachers are doing their best. However, when the inevitable outbreaks of COVID-19 hit and schools have to change everything once again, I worry that our teachers are going to be held responsible for something that is completely out of their control. And that's not right.

No one knows exactly how this school year is going to play out. It's going to be rough for all of us, including our teachers. Our families have different needs, as do our children. And while the same might go for teachers, I hope we can all agree that they need our support. Because their lives and livelihoods are in just as much upheaval as ours, maybe even more, and we need to work with them, not against them.