While I can understand Caroline Hood's frustrations surrounding remote learning ("Remote learning? We're done with it," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 13), I have to believe that she and others who won't support this effort fail to appreciate the challenge facing schools today — and what it means to be a parent. I'd like to offer three quick points:
- Schools are grappling with a severe staff shortage. Teachers are phoning in ill, and substitutes are in short supply. How are schools supposed to protect those students who show up with staffing levels so low? Who will guide the students to safety in the event of a natural disaster or even a shooter on site? Skeletal staffs make it tough, if not impossible, to protect students on a daily basis.
- Schools and restaurants aren't comparable. You may stay at a restaurant or bar for 60 to 90 minutes, but students are at school, exposed to literally hundreds of other kids, for six hours or more. That raises the risk for infection significantly.
- Parents are parents, not martyrs. If Hood thinks she is forced to pivot and handle issues at all hours now, just wait until her children get older, when those needs become much more complicated. Parenting involves sacrifice. It's what we signed up for when we brought those bundles home from the hospital. Our children depend on us to care for them, 24 hours a day. That doesn't make us martyrs; it makes us parents.
Mark Lindley, St. Paul
In response to Hood's opinion on remote learning, I ask, what alternative would she offer? What would she do when a teacher was ill and there were no subs available? What would she do if there were not enough drivers to bus the children to school? Unless one has a viable alternative, one should not criticize those who are doing their best in a horrific situation.
Sally Thomas, Edina
The writer is a retired school principal.
I agree with Hood completely. Every single one of her bullet points is right on. I have three grandkids in Minneapolis schools and preschool. We are all sick of this. So are their parents!
Just one question, who is going to be there to teach her kids?
Teachers get sick, too. You've probably heard there are almost no substitutes, either. Catching kids' colds has always been part of the job. So has bringing those sniffles home and dealing with their own headaches and sick kids. Catching a virus that could leave them with a long-term disability or kill vulnerable relatives is not part of the job. My kids and their spouses are mostly teachers, a couple in Minneapolis.
Teachers want to be with your kids. That's why they chose this underappreciated and underpaid profession. They actually care for your kids. When things are "normal," no calling could be more rewarding. I see their smiles and the pride in their eyes, telling me it's fun, too!
I promise, if you hang in there, they will, too.
John M. Widen, Minneapolis
I agree with many statements by the mother who says she is done with remote learning.
However, first of all, educators have never claimed that remote learning is equal to in-school instruction. It is an alternative to a very severe problem, much of that problem due to selfishness. If every one of us took seriously the masking, social distancing and vaccination availabilities, we would not have the school issues of today. The author of this article lays the blame, but offers no alternatives, only, "Nope, I'm not doing it."
How much time should be allotted for parents to make provisions for their child? Haven't we already had two years of knowing this pandemic would have its highs and lows? If parents aren't prepared for such emergencies, then the education system cannot be blamed. If every parent, educator and child were vaccinated, wore masks, stayed social distanced, children would still be attending school. Parents would not have to pivot.
The writer says she can go to a bar, but her child cannot go to school. She's talking oranges and apples here. I have total control over my visit to the bar, choosing who I am in contact with or staying away. My child going to school has no control over contacts. However, parents and educators do have control over their bodies; again vaccinations and masking for all would be a viable deterrent to the illness — thus no need for remote learning.
With parenthood comes the ultimate responsibility for the social, emotional, academic, cognitive, physical and religious well-being for the children. Unfortunately, in today's society parents have handed over the social aspect to organized programs, the emotional to specialists, the academic and cognitive to schools, the physical to organized sports, the religious to churches. When everything goes well, the parent is the ultimate parent, but if things go awry, as in today's world, then the blame can easily be handed over to these surrogate parents. Yes, parents, stop being martyrs. Accept the responsibility you automatically inherited by becoming a parent.
Betty Bartos, Maple Grove
"Remote learning? We're done with it" struck a chord with me, as it surely did for every other parent of school-aged children. Yes. We are so over distance learning. The encouraging platitudes from two years ago ("We can do hard things!" "Minnesota strong!") make us grit our teeth and want to throw a Chromebook at the wall. Parents are exhausted and angry and sad, just like every other human on this earth who is enduring this endless pandemic.
But while Hood's commentary stopped short of blaming schools for inconveniencing parents, she certainly suggested it. Because my children are in middle school, they've been able to explain to me the daily chaos of in-person school during the pandemic. Teachers are getting COVID no matter how many masks they're wearing (several teachers are on round two already). Because of the constant staffing shortage, they are subbing on their prep. They are absorbing teacher-less students without any notice. My kids have math subs for English class. They have counselors teaching world studies. They have subs "teaching" algebra who haven't taken algebra in 25 years. Classroom teachers are tasked with providing high quality lessons for both in-person and quarantined students. Schedules are getting shifted regularly to balance constantly shifting numbers. Teachers are mask police (because, middle school!). They are fielding daily phone calls and e-mails from parents who are upset for one reason or another. They are sorting out contact tracing with the health office everyday, because it turns out that middle schoolers don't always stay in their assigned seats! And this doesn't even touch the wildly unreliable, highly reported on transportation crisis, which especially impacts our most vulnerable children.
Amid all this, the communication I've received from my children's teachers over the past two years has been nothing but positive, gracious and thoughtful. They must be superhuman.
You can't run a school without teachers. When Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff says "We've reached our tipping point," I believe him. No one wanted to move to distance learning, least of all the schools. I have never once heard a teacher say "remote school is just as good as in-person school." Everyone knows it's not. Minneapolis Public Schools has bent over backward to keep your children in-person for the past year. Now they're saying they need two weeks for their teachers and staff to get healthy. If you don't want to log in, don't do it. Do what you need to do for your children and for your family.
But first, please, send your child's teacher — and maybe even the school district — a "thank you" e-mail for all their hard work over the past two years. Explain why you can't do distance learning (they'll get it) and ask how you can help support them once in-person learning resumes. And finally, send another e-mail to your local representatives. Ask them how they plan to support the schools while COVID continues to surge through our communities, which will in turn support all of us parents who are absolutely "done" with distance learning.
Anne Nervig, Minneapolis
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