Pressure, Education, Mental Health and a Pandemic in Between

Collage+by+Alejandra+Anias

Collage by Alejandra Anias

By Alejandra Anias , Staff writer

Since the closing of schools due to Covid-19 back in March 2020, many people have been scared and/or mortified by the idea of ever coming back to their regular lives and to visiting places daily, without the certainty of a cure. Although quarantine kept many safe from the virus, others felt prisoners in their own homes.

Regardless of experience, the quarantine throughout the whole country was not enough to stop the virus from spreading and affecting more people. That’s why, during the summer, the school board decided to postpone the re-opening of schools and hold online classes a little longer.

As of October 7, 2020, Miami Senior High opened for students who chose to go back to school; however, did teachers have the same opportunity to choose whether they wanted to stay online and teach through virtual programs, or go back to school and teach physically?

    Assistant principal Ms. Leal reported that teachers were given the option, through a survey, to indicate if they had any medical condition, and decide whether they’d come back to school or take a leave of absence.  This was in contrast to administrative staff who had been returning to school since the beginning of the year to make sure everything was ready for the return of the teachers and students.

 

Pressure

Regarding the return to traditional classroom learning, there were different responses from teachers. While AP Psychology teacher Mr. Norori expressed to be glad to come back to school and teach physically to his students, claiming that it’s a more efficient way to teach and learn, other teachers didn’t feel the same way.

An anonymous professor in the science department said, “I am feeling apprehensive about returning face to face.” When asked, to the same professor, which teaching method they preferred between online and physical, they answered, “In this time of Covid-19, it is more of a necessity rather than what I prefer. I feel online will help keep everyone safe.”

On the other hand, business technology teacher Mr. Padilla said he felt “a little nervous but I know many students benefit from the structure.” Yet, should the structure help some in the short run and ruin the bigger group on the long run?

Regardless of comfortability when returning to school, was coming back ever an option for educators? What could happen if they decided not to go back? When interviewing teachers, the most common responses were “It is mandatory that I return to school once it reopens,” as expressed by the anonymous source.

They added that if they chose to stay online, they’d most likely be risking their job: “If I do not return to school, I would have to take a leave of absence without pay and my job would be at risk.”

    Theatre teacher Ms. Fernandez added that it was expected of teachers to return and that “The other option is to take a leave of absence, but no one knows how long this is going to last, so what’s the point?”

Nevertheless, there are others who believe that they can work through a pandemic and be able to work with their students while taking precautions to stay safe within a classroom. Mr. Norori said, “I do not think it is an extreme decision. I believe that daily life must still proceed despite the pandemic but should proceed with caution. A vaccine can take months, sometimes years to develop and we cannot afford to wait that long to halt education.”

Some teachers even believe that on-line learning could be better than teaching in person.  Math teacher Mr. Urrusuno, said, “I think offering students the choice of physical or online classes is the best decision. I have been saying for years, long before the coronavirus, that online learning is the future. The reasons why are many. You can already get college degrees and high school degrees entirely online. Kids are growing up completely accustomed to being online. Doing school online reduces or eliminates the problems of school shootings, bullying, school violence, being exposed to drugs, bad influences, and harmful ideologies. Online schooling, if done correctly, would also allow the school system to greatly reduce the costs of running schools because they could reduce the number of physical buildings they must maintain, they could give a much bigger class size to the good teachers and increase their pay while eliminating the bad teachers who do not teach and are merely collecting a paycheck!”

English teacher Ms. Berrios added that reopening schools was “not really extremist. It was going to happen eventually. I think it’s risky and we might have to shut down again if the cases spike up. It’s been more inconvenient if anything. A lot of schedule changes… lots of confused kids…it’s pretty wild. I was definitely enjoying working from home; there was a lot less disruption. I had a good month of consistency/routine…so did the kids.”

English teacher Mr. Jimenez added, “Being part of a community means making sacrifices for others around you and doing your part. Things that are second nature to us right now should be paused and reassessed. I’d like to think that every sacrifice as large or small is for the safety of those around me. These are the times when being empathetic and caring go a long way.”

 

Education

Another disputable point came to light when asked whether teachers felt pressured by their superiors. Mr. Norori responded, “While it was mandated that we had to return, I feel our superiors have been very understanding and helpful regarding this situation. Miami High has a great administration that prioritizes the safety of its students and faculty.”

Ms. Berrios and another anonymous source from the English department agreed. Ms. Berrios said, “I don’t feel any pressure. I think we have very understanding and supportive administrators.”

Even so, the anonymous science teacher had a different opinion of this: “I do feel pressured given that I do not have an option other than physically returning to work.”

Students also had a saying on this specific point. Junior Ashley Ferrera said, “I really do think it’s unfair; they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their wellbeing in risk of losing their job. They also have family members that are high risk. They can even be high risk themselves… they were just thrown into the environment with no idea of what’s going to happen next.”

    Seniors Nestor Escamilla and Miguel Alvarado agree that teachers should have an option on whether they’d prefer to go back to school because, like Ashley Ferrera stated previously, they’d be putting their own lives and those of their families at risk of infection.

Senior Eslyn Gonzales and Junior Axel Yos added that teachers should have the option much like the students to decide on the risks they’re willing to take.

Solution for troublesome situations.

Some teachers believe that the way we are providing education right not could be improved. Ms. Fernandez said, “It is dangerous because of the amount of people teachers and students come into contact with daily. I would keep schools online.”

The anonymous science teacher said, “I would allow teachers to stay online until the end of 2020. A possible solution would be to have designated online teachers and designated teachers that are physically in school. Teachers who are older (high risk category) would be allowed to teach online. Teachers who are young (and not high-risk category) would teach physically.”

In contrast, Mr. Urrusuno added, “Is there a better way? I don’t think so. Everyone is a Monday Morning Quarterback. The fact is, everyone has a different situation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that will make everyone happy. Offering students and parents the choice of online vs. physical is the way to go.”

Pandemic

While the cases continue to increase in the United States, so do those at Miami High. Teachers communicate that the school administration has given measures to follow in case there’s an outbreak in a classroom. These methods were to keep track of a sitting chart, therefore, if an infected student was reported, administration could track the people that this person could’ve been in contact with. Then, these people would be sent home to quarantine for 14 days and return safely to school afterwards.

But if there isn’t enough space in one classroom to hold students and keep them six feet apart at the same time, what could become of Stingaree Town? Ms. Fernandez stated, “Teachers were given hand sanitizer, extra masks, a face guard, cleaning spray and wipes to keep in our classrooms and use.”

Yet she felt scared because teachers like her “are seeing 60 – 80 different students a day. “ As suspected, cases have begun to rise and students along with teachers have been sent home over the past few weeks. What the future holds for Miami High remains uncertain, but something is for sure, this pandemic is not over yet.

 

Sources for this story

Teachers and administrators

  • Assistant principal Ms. Leal
  • AP Psychology teacher Mr. Norori
  • Business technology teacher Mr. Padilla
  • Theatre teacher Ms. Fernandez
  • Math teacher Mr. Urrusuno
  • English teacher Ms. Berrios
  • English teacher Mr. Jimenez
  • 2 teachers who wished to remain anonymous

 

Students

  • Junior Ashley Ferrera
  • Senior Nestor Escamilla
  • Senior Miguel Alvarado
  • Senior Eslyn Gonzales
  • Junior Axel Yos