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Lazy? I teach hundreds a week, an hour at a time

What I don’t think Rich Lowry realized when he mentioned that teachers’ unions are supporting teachers to be selfish, lazy and avoiding work in his column in (the Aug. 8) paper, is, unlike the overworked health-care workers, grocery clerks, restaurant workers and first responders, we teachers have a different level of contact with children.

If social distancing is one way to avoid getting COVID-19 then I must explain how many children I see during a normal work week under normal circumstances. I am an elementary art teacher. I serve the entire school. That means any given year I teach between 400 and 600 students for an hour every week. That means I have direct contact with 400-600 children every week for an hour.

To put this in perspective for Lowry: I probably spend less than six minutes with a check-out clerk at a store, less than three minutes picking up my take-out order.

I have never had a primary care physician spend more than 30 minutes with me. My few interactions with first responders over the years have occurred outside and for about less than 15 minutes. Those examples of the everyday heroes are all one-on-one.

To further clarify, I see upward of 20 students for hour-long art lessons. Regular classroom teachers of course spend many, many, many more hours in contact with their 20-plus students, I see the entire student body for less time indeed. With that known I do see every student in the entire school within one week’s time. This goes on, of course, for an entire school year, week in and week out, contact with 400-600 students. Those students go on to spend hours with their classroom teachers, they have contact with cafeteria workers, they all have hour-long contact with the PE teachers, music teachers, librarians, and some see additional specialists and support staff on a weekly basis, too. Don’t forget the janitors enter every classroom, cafeteria, gym, library, hallway and restroom those students have been in.

Now let’s suppose I get sick and don’t feel sick but am contagious without knowing it. I could not only get the entire school sick within one week, but let’s not forget that my students have to go home at the end of the day, and they could spread what I gave them to their families, too, or to their after-school care programs.

How would the contact tracing look when they ask how many people I had contact with when I finally start to show symptoms and say test positive? I’d have to say I have had extended contact; I spent an hour with over 400-600 people in one week. Has Lowry spent an hour with that many people in the last six months I wonder? Probably not.

I teach 400-600 students in a week, (so) don’t call me lazy or say I avoid work. Teachers do not do their jobs for the handsome paychecks or the glory, because neither exists in teaching. There is a great deal of care, time investment, thoughtfulness, kindness and nurturing that goes on in schools, which is counterintuitive to exposing children to a deadly virus.

Shame on (Lowry). (He) must not have children that (he cares) about in (his) life. Would (he) really call the English teachers that inspired (him) to pursue a writing career lazy or selfish? But if (he thinks he’s) got this, (he should) become a teacher – there is a shortage – and walk a week in a teacher’s shoes, if (he) can last that long.

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