There is a lot of discussion at the moment about whether schools should be open or closed and whether the different stances that different states have taken is right or wrong.
Let me be clear – this is not a blog where I share whether I think schools should be open or closed.
I’m a teacher. I’m not an epidemiologist, a medical researcher or a paediatric pandemic expert. My medical knowledge is limited to a first aid certificate (which, at least, is very current). However I would imagine, even for those in such professions, their expertise in this particular arena is a bit limited, having not actually experienced a situation like this before. At best, they’re making educated guesses – definitely educated but also definitely guesses, about rates of infection and disease spread and likely outcomes. They absolutely have much more idea than I do but please let’s not pretend that they know exactly what will happen. In this situation, we’re all learning as we go. So, while it’s wonderful and completely appropriate to be guided by medical advice, let’s not pretend that it’s gospel.
No two countries can agree on the best way to manage anything in this pandemic so it stands to reason that the states of Australia can’t either. I know the theory is that we’re one country but we never really act like it and for good reason – we share lots of commonalities but also have a great deal of diversity and that’s why we have multiple layers of government to manage that. Therefore it also should not come as a surprise to find that states are seeking advice from different sources and are interpreting what they hear in a way that supports their circumstances and population while not being too bogged down in what other states are doing.
Having said that, the most important reason I won’t tell you whether I think schools should be open or closed is because it doesn’t matter – it’s not my decision. I’m an employee of a state Education Department and I do what I’m told. I was told, at the end of Term 1, to prepare for the possibility of remote teaching. So I did. And continued to prepare during school holidays. At the end of the holidays, I was told to begin remotely teaching my students which I’m now doing to the best of my ability. I’ve worked harder in this last 2 weeks than I ever have before, something I didn’t actually think possible. I was also asked if I was willing and able to go on a roster to supervise children of those who are unable to work from home (while continuing to remotely teach the rest) which I have also done and continue to do.
I’m sorry that the Prime Minister, the media and a bunch of uninformed people on social media have given you incorrect information – teachers don’t get to make decisions about opening or closing schools. I know my grade think I’m pretty special but those sorts of decisions are way above my pay grade.
Please also don’t be under any illusions – schools most definitely are not closed. The buildings may have a lot less people in them and my classroom may be empty but the cogs are continuing to turn as furiously as ever and staff continue to work as hard as we can to provide learning, support and some sort of routine in these odd times for our students. When those in authority decide the time is right, whether that’s next week or next term, I’ll be just as eager as my students to walk back through those classroom doors. Until then, can those of you who want to debate it please keep the noise down – I’m trying to teach.