The case for canceling school altogether

Emma Guevara
Cameron County
Kindergarten Teacher
Brownsville, Texas

Cameron County
Kindergarten Teacher
Brownsville, Texas

Schools closing because of a global pandemic was not how I anticipated the second semester of this school year would go. My students were supposed to finish Kindergarten with their peers, excited for moving a classroom over to first grade in the fall. For now, that will most likely not be the case.

As most people know, one of the main issues with a shelter-in-place order from the county was that schools could no longer convene. The solution? Distance teaching: teachers could conduct classes over video calls, assigning classwork that students submitted online. No one would come into contact with one another.

It sounds simple, but it is not. The idea behind distance teaching, or distance learning, assumes so much of parents, and it is because of these assumptions that distance teaching does not work.

It assumes that a) parents understand technology enough to work a video call, access assignments, download and send assignments back, etc., b) parents have a device that their child can use for their schoolwork, c) parents are able to afford internet access, and d) parents do not have a job in which they are considered “essential workers,” meaning they can be at home with their child and help them with their schoolwork.

Even those four points bring up many more caveats. For example, even if a parent is not considered an essential worker, they still have to work from home. They are thus unable to give their undivided attention to their child. Most teachers I know have children (yes, plural). How is a teacher expected to teach from home while they have more than one student at home that needs to “distance learn”?

Distance learning also assumes a lot from school districts.

A common issue we have seen across the Valley has been equipment access. A large portion of students are unable to afford a laptop or a tablet to complete schoolwork. Districts’ supposed solution was to lend devices to students who needed them. Still, most districts do not have enough devices for all students If a student has a sibling who also needs a device, the district would only issue one device per family, and the students would have to share.

This doubling-up drains time for parents who need each child to do their work one at a time while also making sure their other children remain occupied. This is all assuming that parents can afford access to the internet. If they cannot, then the district must provide a hotspot. If the district cannot ensure a hotspot, it creates more issues.

As a teacher, I never signed up to work for Best Buy’s Geek Squad. I feel like the majority of the work that I have done since we began distance teaching is IT support. Every app and website we use requires a username and password. In my Kinder class alone, parents are responsible for knowing over four sets of log-in credentials for their child. I have gotten plenty of comments from parents expressing their exasperation at the sheer volume of log-in credentials they are now responsible for.

This issue might be a little bit easier for teachers who have older students. Still, from what I have experienced, age does not matter: computer literacy is lacking in all age groups. Administrators require nearly the same amount of work as we give our students in class. So, parents, if you were wondering why your children’s teachers are assigning so much work so quickly, I promise you, it is not because we want to.

As I have seen from the administration, they are having the same issue, with these orders coming from their superiors. It has turned into a chain of insatiable demand to justify why any of us should get paid. Teaching is not a commodified industry. Our pay should not depend on what has been produced because we are not trying to produce anything. We are trying to mold, trying to guide. Teaching is an investment in society and the future. No one in education should have to justify why we should get paid. The entirety of our society needs to be kinder in our approach to the situation at hand.

This is a real emergency. When a deadly virus runs rampant, making sure a five-year-old draws a picture of a plant to ensure their teacher’s pay can seem arbitrary. Frankly, we are at the end of the school year already, so the amount of teaching lost will not impact students significantly. Obviously modifications for the next school year will have to be made, and there will be changes, but this is a reality for every aspect of our lives.

One thing about this pandemic is certain: nothing will be the same as it was before. Instead of causing all of this unnecessary stress to justify why the public education system should get paid, we end the school year a little early. Most school districts planned to end the year by the end of May, and we are already a week and a half into April. It is not that much of a loss.

Rather than stressing out students and parents, who are already scared due to the current situation, we should make this a time where students can enjoy being at home. There they will have the time to explore the outdoors, read, and spend time with their families. The 2019-2020 school year needs to end early. We are living through a major historical event. It is time to accept that and behave accordingly.

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    • Cindy on April 14, 2020 at 3:24 pm
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    I do believe we have a major problem with all aspects of distance learning–we need to come to solutions!
    We need national, state and local governments help!
    We need to be trained as teachers, administrators and staff
    Our children will be the first to be living in the 21st century world –so is this positive or a negative for the students? I feel we can learn from this and hopefully it is a positive for the students.

      • Maria Montemayor on April 17, 2020 at 1:08 am
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      I completely agree in ending school earlier than expected end of May. This whole pandemic situation has been extremely gotten out of hand. Educators and parents at home should NOT be overwhelmed with school work etc… this is an unusual situation we’re experiencing, so it calls out for unusual measures!!!! I truly believe that it’s time to end the school year now and parents and educators need to focus more on taking care of themselves from this awful pandemic we’re experiencing!!!!!

    • Melissa Garcia on April 14, 2020 at 12:02 am
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    I completely agree and school districts once again have asked teachers to subsidize them. Districts require teachers to utilize their phones, and internet service to provide distant learning. Districts were quick to send out teachers what their new responsibilities were but not once did they discuss how we would be compensated for using our cell phones, data plans and internet service.

    • Michelle Garza on April 13, 2020 at 10:12 pm
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    Although I am a teacher and I do agree with many many points and comments made here, I am amazed that among the complaints about internet and devices, I can go into any students account and see them posting Facebook posts, tweets, Snapchat videos and watching hours of Instagram videos. Just saying. That all takes internet and devices right?? It is difficult and I have to explain the directions 70 times so I adjusted my lessons to be more fun and more interesting. And yes, I get texts and messages at 3am, because I guess my high school kids think I run on Energizer batteries, but it’s 6 more weeks so I will suck it up. I will make it as fun and educational as I can. I will listen to their fears. I will answer them at 3am. And I won’t complain because they look to me as an example. And the example I want to set is perseverance in circumstances that are beyond my control because THAT is the future I want to be part of.

      • Sandra Martinez on April 15, 2020 at 12:03 pm
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      God Bless You, Mrs. Garza! Your perspective is nothing short of AMAZING! You are a blessing to your students and their parents. Thank you for helping to make a horrible situation, a little better. :):)

    • Angry Mother! on April 11, 2020 at 7:35 pm
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    I had to borrow a school laptop…for my kid.. I had to get a second cheap phone for hotspot access. So they can do their work.. while I’ work.

    The prob I have it’s that I get access on my phone… to what the teachers send .. I get pop up.after pop up.. I don’t know how my kid can keep up.. and still manage to send in work.. on time.
    This would be easier if .. the teachers are all in sync. And spread out the work.. and stay on a schedule…instead of sending work when ever they want.. I get pop ups late at night..

    And yes …this is in San Benito..middle school!.. my kids have more than 5 teachers.

    • Julie Parker on April 11, 2020 at 4:49 pm
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    You are exactly right on all points but unfortunately TEA and the other powers that be are not going to let up. Sadly. Kiddos for a well written article !

    • Carmen Garcia on April 11, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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    Very Good Emma! 😀

    • Sylvia Banda on April 11, 2020 at 2:46 pm
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    I agree. Kids are getting stress, family are getting stressed. Not to mention how it is affecting grandparents who are stepping in to care for children because parents are frontline citizens.

    • Joan Jaimes on April 11, 2020 at 2:09 pm
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    You are absolutely right!! ❤️

    • Maria Delarosa on April 11, 2020 at 12:46 pm
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    You nailed it. I wish the state (TEA) and school districts would loom into this.

      • Daisy Camarillo on April 11, 2020 at 2:24 pm
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      I agree!! I know it’s hard to end the year early but it’s for the better and safest way to keep everyone safe!

    • Kim on April 11, 2020 at 11:36 am
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    Amen! Its hard to teach and also teach 1st and 3rd grade, make sure all 4 of us have a device that is logged in, husband is teaching from home too.

    • Michelle on April 11, 2020 at 10:51 am
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    Amen to your words and the Positive effect it would have on our stressed out humanity at this point in time. ❤😍

    • Fernando Lazo on April 11, 2020 at 10:11 am
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