Person Putting Letters In Mailbox

Teachers should refuse to return to classrooms 

I have a long history of refusing. 

I’ve refused job offers, marriage proposals, desserts while on a diet, dates and countless servings of vegetables as a child. 

As I look back, my life has been more defined by what I have refused than what I have accepted. 

In the midst of a global pandemic, educators are now being faced with the ultimate choice to enter a classroom, and this time, the consequences of our decisions will far exceed seeing a disappointing number on a scale or having a bad date.

 This time, the lives of faculty, staff, students and their families are hanging in the balance. 

School administrators, from K12 classrooms to universities, are struggling with the decision of whether to open their institutions to an in-person or all-online campus, or creating a hybrid scenario.

Urgent streams of emails are circulating, describing how students could be distanced from each other, mitigating the spread of the virus. Block scheduling, partitions between desks, mandatory masks, and staggered lunch breaks have all been considered. 

The consensus seemed to be that no amount of distancing or precautions were likely to stop COVID-19 from infecting classrooms, teachers, staff and students.

In my home state of Arizona, we have already lost a dedicated educator who was teaching summer school and reportedly did everything in her power to prevent the spread of the disease. The other two teachers in the classroom contracted COVID-19 as well. 

Administrators and government officials alike acknowledge that despite our best preventative efforts, illness, disability and deaths are likely to occur. 

It is time for educators to refuse to enter the classroom this fall.

We must not bow to the immense financial, administrational, and political pressure to open our classrooms. States such as Arizona, Florida, and Texas have seen the unyielding consequences of resuming normal operations prematurely. 

This decision will carry tremendous hardships. There are students who do not learn optimally in an online environment. Others would suffer from the loss of support that a school or university may provide. We must not leave these populations behind; instead, we must find ways to accommodate them while keeping most students at home safely. 

Educators will suffer from a loss of employment as well. We will be forced to deplete our sick-leave banks, deny contracts and simply refuse to return.

 Faculty and staff bank accounts will go from being stretch thin to breaking, resulting in countless hardships. Adjunct professors, who teach the majority of college courses and do not receive health insurance benefits or paid sick leave, will absorb many of these sacrifices. 

As an adjunct faculty member, I have had to decline some contracts that have required me to return to the classroom. 

Other colleges have converted to online platforms. Still, like most of us, we have lost a tremendous amount of work, salary, and opportunity. I will be moving into my parent’s empty home as a result of this salary loss. 

This is not a decision that will come lightly for any of us and, for some, it will carry heavy consequences.

Nevertheless, now is the time to refuse to lead ourselves, our staff, and our students to slaughter for economic and political gain. 

Educators have a long history of placing our students, their families and our communities ahead of our own self-interest and we must not suspend these ideals during this crisis. However, we must refuse to return to the classroom and stand for our students and communities. 

-Jennifer Kady Stanton