‘Virtual’ teaching or hazardous workplace

November 29, 2020

From the November-December 2020 issue of News & Letters

Lake County, Ill.—In my Illinois suburban/rural school district the parents of the children I teach are mostly Spanish-speaking low-income essential workers. Now we teach remotely, from home. I’ve been working 10-17 hours a day in front of a computer—including weekends.

The union is worse than the administration. A union vice-president told us, “You’ll all have to work; you can’t take a nap now,” because all resource and special education teachers have to record all their classroom time. We are still learning the technology and there is little help from the techno-wizard technology staff, now cut from five people to three.


In September, teachers had the option to teach in their classrooms, but there is no way I would risk entering that building. The district got rid of a custodian; the ventilation was never fixed; we had no personal protective equipment; there were no hot meals. Instead, the custodian drops a bag of breakfast. At the end of every school day teachers must do all the classroom sanitation. If a child died, I would wonder: “Did I not clean well enough?”

On the third day of school, my six-year-old students had their first formative assessment. The district wants to “catch up on standardized testing.” This is so developmentally inappropriate! We should be caring for our children and their families. They have gone through so much!

If the parents have not had to work under unsafe conditions, they have been laid off. Some children have experienced the illness and death of loved ones. We should go slow, show the children love, teach them to love learning, read to them, have fun. Instead the six-year olds have a two-hour block of English language arts in the morning, and two hours of math in the afternoon, along with other subjects like science and social studies.

Class sizes are 22 to 29 children. To track attendance in virtual classrooms, every day, for every child in every subject, teachers must “check for understanding” and record each child’s response. If a response is missing, the child has a week to submit that work. The teacher has to follow up on missing responses and, at the same time, teach at grade level. The expectations for teachers are unimaginable. I never “see” one little boy because his screen always shows the ceiling. One little girl missed classes recently because her grandfather died of COVID-19.

The district emailed what they meant as an “inspirational quote” suggesting that teachers “be consumed, like a candle, as they spread the flame of knowledge over their students.” Sadly, this sums up our situation all too well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *