With a new school year now in session, I hope we as a community can have an honest conversation about the roles and responsibilities of schools and teachers in our society. Look at some of the subjects that were hot-button topics during the initial months:
• How can all students access the curriculum?
• How can parents work if schools are closed?
• Who will notice and report child abuse if teachers can’t see students?
• How will children get fed breakfast and lunch if schools are closed?
• Who will be responsible for students’ mental and emotional health?
• How do we address social isolation when students aren’t together?
• How can students maintain their physical health without PE and recess?
So, we are talking about designing and delivering instruction, safe accessible child care, social work, food preparation and delivery, counseling, health coaching and access, and overall physical, emotional and mental health awareness and therapy.
The well-crafted letter by Franklin Schargel on Aug. 17 included a list of 23 things school can do to hopefully lessen the chances of another deadly shooting by addressing mental health and bullying. Twenty-three more responsibilities? Necessary, yes, but how?
There is not just one simple explanation for the evolution of responsibility within the school setting, and it has occurred over many years. The expectations have changed, but there are few structures in place to support the changing roles. There are big questions in front of us. What do we expect from teachers and schools? Why? Is that what we want them to look like going forward? If so, how do we support that? If not, who will be responsible for those roles? What are we as a society willing to do?
There has been so much finger-pointing and blaming that the real issues are being obscured. We will never be able to move forward until the real issues are defined honestly and solutions agreed upon by all the parties and stakeholders. How do we determine what we want from our teachers and schools?