Day 118 and the Hypocrisy

I’ll never forget Day 118.   **I don’t know how to add footnotes on a blog, but I can assure you that I consulted an expert, my 1st grade son, to tell me what day of school today was.**

I had perfect attendance. Let that sink in for a moment. I teach 112 students and not only did I have perfect attendance today, I rarely have more than 1-2 students absent on any given day. As students logged on, class began with a song, chosen by one of my students, they then reflected on why we celebrate Black History Month, we did a formative assessment in preparation for Thursday’s quiz, students did quick sketches of something from their weekends in order to learn new tech tools just released on a graphing calculator software we use, they collaborated in breakout rooms to deepen their knowledge of y=mx+b and the mathematics behind parallel lines, then did a deep reflection about how their breakout rooms collaborate today and whether or not their team was read for the upcoming quiz. Recently they used their knowledge of linear equations to write 1-word New Year’s Resolutions. 

Today is day 118 of full distance learning. Perfect attendance, about 80% cameras on and deep reflective conversations on social justice topics and mathematics. So much of what is working well is my school staff’s commitment to this work: we have been deeply reflective and collaborative about how to best support kids and families during the pandemic since last spring. Day 118 wouldn’t have been memorable except that KQED published an article using video feed of our teachers’ union president taking his 2-year-old daughter to preschool. And that article got picked up by national news, so now we are ground zero for parents’ cries of hypocrisy.

According to the Oxford English dictionary, hypocrisy is “a behavior that does not meet the moral standards or match the opinions that somebody claims to have.”

I am filled with questions which maybe by writing and sharing and reflecting with you I can get answers to.

What exactly is the hypocrisy? I’m honestly not sure.

  • Is the hypocrisy that some teachers have found private child care for their young children so that they can do their jobs while working tirelessly to figure out the incredibly complex issue surrounding school’s opening in person?
  • Is the hypocrisy that it most certainly is safer to have kids in a tiny, private pre-school where the student:teacher ratio is 1:4 than in my public middle school where I see 112 students per day and some teachers see up to 150 students per day in class sizes that range from 26-30 students?
  • Is the hypocrisy that nearly EVERY parent I know whose voices are the loudest on school reopening has also broken quarantine to go skiing, travel to airbnbs with friends, visited Hawaii, etc etc?
  • Is the hypocrisy that most parents whose voices are the loudest on school reopening do not know anyone in their immediate family who has died from COVID and has not asked the opinion on school reopening from those who do?
  • Is the hypocrisy that there is a small, minority of parents who have used their privilege and power to create a public narrative which claims to speak for us all, but actually doesn’t?
  • Is the hypocrisy that a “Guerilla Momz” who took the video of a dad walking his 2-year-old to preschool refuses to identify herself because she fears repercussions but yet goes to the press with a video which KQED publishes knowing quite well that those same repercussions could now fall onto this Berkeley father?
  • Is the hypocrisy that the public narrative is to reopen schools, when actually schools never closed?

I am a BUSD parent, teacher, and a proud member of the Executive Board of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. I am and always have been 100% focused on coming back to school in person. Teachers in Berkeley have the same goals as parents. Keep our families and ourselves safe while upholding ourselves to the highest possible standards of educating the youth of Berkeley. If you’re here with us to figure that out, I’m all in.

26 thoughts on “Day 118 and the Hypocrisy

  1. Thanks, Allison! As I just shut down my computer at midnight! Congratulations on perfect attendance! The students ARE in school, you are correct.
    I’m saddened that this privileged group of parents had made statements that “they” should not have given us our raise, “we” should get new careers if we don’t want to be frontline workers, etc. I have a theory… of why they need school to open… hopefully we can all connect soon. Your words are powerful! Tyra

  2. First, I would send my child to your remote classroom over so many in-person classrooms. Hey…wait…can I?? Time difference might allow it…”Hey Kid, you’re going to double school!” : ) Second, your voice is so clear, concise, and powerful. You inspire. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your powerful reflection! Those fake-power, ignorant, passive aggressive parents want their children in in-person learning. Yes, but why? They do because they have saturated their patience, love, and commitment to their own children’s education. They cannot handle distance earning anymore! They have no idea how to be present, how to get involved in the real education of their children. Yes, they need us more than never because morality has gone out the window for these people and they fear reality! As you said, they cannot imagine those families who were infected with Covid-19 and yet these families are still there for their children supporting them through and through even if they feel so sick that they much rather be in bed resting to feel better. It’s so ironic that these families who have lost their health, their income, and means to provide food for their families are doing what is correct: educate their children whether through distance learning or when appropriate and safe in-person. Hypocrisy does not run in the the blood of these families who have been affected families by Covid-19. They would rather guide their lives with dignity, bravery, understanding, love, humility, and leadership.

      • How stupid can you both be? Parents are working full-time while home with their children. This is difficult.

        Also, over half of the students in your privileged district in your privileged town are white. It’s not surprising that there are white parents organizing to reopen schools.

        The head of your union is a white guy with dreads? I think you have bigger problems.

  4. Hi Allison, thank you for the incredible work you have and continue to put in to educating the children in your classes. We as district parents, are grateful and very fortunate. I wanted to speak to some of the broad generalizations above about parents pushing for an in-person option in Berkeley. I am one of those parents. I don’t condone the tactic used in that video. I love my children, and treasure time with them. We are a family of two essential workers unable to be home during the day most days. It has been extremely challenging to support virtual school for my very young child in that setting, and the district has offered no options despite my asking. Distance learning for our youngest kids is very challenging for many of them and their families, despite our amazing teacher’s superhuman efforts. and extended screen time and social isolation also not good for young children. I know first hand how scary COVID is, and the pain of COVID-related illness and loss in my family. We aren’t out skiing or sitting on the beach in Hawaii (neither of which is currently a public health violation or a documented source of community spread here). But we know enough now about the illness to prevent it very effectively, in healthcare, childcare, and education settings. I support teachers and families who want to continue in virtual learning for personal/health reasons and believe they should have our district’s support. But essential workers, children failing in virtual school, and other families that cannot manage also deserve an in-person option without having to pay for private school. Would welcome your perspective on this.

    • Shelene, I really appreciate your comments. And I know that I too made generalizations in that blog post. At this point, school opening is about the gargantuan amount of not simply logistics, but realties of public schools. We have to find a way to offer 240 minutes a day of instruction to a decent-sized group of 100% virtual students and the same minutes to a group of in-person students. We must do the in-person within the health guidelines. I teach 112 students and many secondary teachers teach closer to 150 students. Thinking about how to ensure that the QUALITY of instruction is equivalent for the distance learning students and the in-person students while adhering to all of the guidelines, is incredibly complex. Not impossible. Just very complex. I wish we had more ways to come together as a community to figure this out. If a solution were clear, we would have implemented it a long time ago. Speaking for my own school’s staff, it’s not a lack of desire. Show me a working model for the large number of students in each of our middle schools which adheres to our local community’s health guidelines and I promise you I’m all in to make it happen. I want to be back teaching in person as badly as you want it for your own kids.

      • Hi Allison, thank you so much for your response. I couldn’t agree more about how much it would help to have more ways to come together as a community to work on this. In another California friend’s district, their board has hosted over 50 community dialogues so far this year (by school level) to bring teachers, families, facilities staff and other players together to talk openly about needs, concerns, and ideas. We need more of that here!
        I also identify with the significant logistical challenges, particularly with middle and high schools. There are national examples of both that have successfully reopened to both hybrid and full-time models. In California, where we are all held to CDPH guidelines, there are several local districts with hybrid models operating for middle schools, and I’d be happy to share a slide deck from Albany parents that breaks down the several local models in the Bay Area if you’d like it. The basic tenets recommended for middle/high school by CDPH are making an effort to keep students in stable groups, and considering ways to minimize crossover when possible, such as block schedules, one-way hallways, staggered transition times, teachers rotating rooms rather than students, etc.
        Now that our BUSD teachers will be vaccinated (hooray!), we don’t have to worry about the number of students that each teacher interacts with, bc vaccinated adults (especially when also masked) are no longer considered potential vectors of disease transmission. Happy to send you a great recent webinar from the UCSF CARES team on how vaccination impacts education if helpful.
        The question of how to ensure high quality distance education for those who choose it is a really important one. For M/HS, I wonder if 1-2 periods of each teacher’s day could be reserved for teaching a fully virtual class in their subject, or something similar. Am sure you and your colleagues have many ideas on what might work and what the challenges to overcome would be. Would be happy to chat anytime, and hope that there are opportunities for us all to work together.
        Finally, just wanted to reiterate my thanks for all you are doing this year. Every teacher I know has found this year incredibly challenging and has been inspirational in the energy, dedication and creativity they have brought to their virtual classrooms. You are so valued, and we appreciate all the ways that you show up daily, even as you juggle many of the same things we all do (your own kids, life, etc). Thank you!

      • Appreciate this. I do have copies of Albany’s plans as well as several Marin districts. I’m super eager to try to find a model for the rest of the year that allows us to build community together and heal from this past year.

  5. Thank you for this very thoughtful post. I am not surprised at all that your students show up every day! You are an amazing teacher. We feel so lucky that our son is in your class.

  6. Thanks for writing and sharing this, Allison. The parents I know who want to get their kids back into the classroom do not at all support filming the teachers union president taking his kid to preschool. Many of them have kids in preschool, and even in the same preschool! I don’t know that advocating for reopening of public schools while trying to manage our own jobs and households and distance learning and worrying about what’s happening to our kids from so much screen time has anything to do with privilege, but I greatly appreciate your perspective and the work you are doing for Berkeley students.

    • Thanks. I wish there was more public push-back against the video and public bullying as we lost so much time over the past week handling the fallout. The public nastiness serves no one.

  7. Hi Alison,
    Thank you for choosing teaching as your professional and being a leader. I feel lucky to live in Berkeley and be able to have my kids attend BUSD. I am also one of the parents calling for open schools. While I agree with you that the video of BFT president is completely wrong and morally horrible, saying that the parents who are calling for open schools are privileged is not true. As a native Spanish speaker, I have talked to so many Latina mamas who work in preschools and home daycares who leave their own kids at home to go take care of other children. These mamas don’t speak out at ELAC or the PTA because they worry that their teachers will say “they do not have commitment to their child’s education”. I have also spoken with so many black mamas who want their babies back in school, including our PCAD representative. And yes my moms partner died of COVID in February.
    It is a privilege to feel safe enough in this country to raise your voice whether in a school meeting or on a blog. I would hope in a place like Berkeley we can have this discourse – without filming intrusion into peoples personals lives nor without uninformed generalizations of who the parents whose kids need to be in school are.
    I love spending time with my kids, however like you, I am working all day and cannot help them with their school work. We do not have an out of work parent (thankfully) that can host a pod. And we don’t have a cabin in Tahoe to go to like many of the other kids Zooming into class with my 4th grader. I am not a good teacher. By December my family no longer had savings to pay for a pod caregiver.
    It was seeing how terrific the teachers at Willard are that made be realize what my son was missing. Please try to understand that calling for schools to open after months of data show it is safe, is not an attack on teachers and it is not a privilege to want your children to be in a classroom.

    • Claudia, I really appreciate what you’ve written here. There are no good answers and even now that we have taken teacher-safety into account, there are still SO MANY barriers to making this work for everyone. Trying to simultaneously run 2 schools (1 distance learning + 1 in person) with no additional time, physical space, or personnel to make it happen is a crazy idea. But one which of course we all desperately want and need to happen. I agree with you, about all of it. But unfortunately the way many people have spoken out about the issues has pitted parents against teachers as if the teachers are the main barrier. I honestly don’t think they are (or ever were). Being a teacher in distance learning (even a really good one) is honestly one of the most miserable things I have ever done. Is is so unsatisfying on a million levels, compared to in-person teaching. I feel a HUGE commitment to my students and their families and yet not a day goes by that I am not longing to be back in person. I wish that over the past several months there had been more forums to come together to really hear each other’s concerns, needs and desires.

  8. Thanks for this honest essay. I have many complicated feelings about this situation. Regarding the BFT leader, to me his actions are not hypocritical because many daycare/preschools have been open for many months — that’s not a secret. I don’t understand this parent’s illogical need to shame him publicly for something that is completely above-board. I agree that the people crying “shame!” are the same ones breaking the quarantine and falsifying their status to get a shot early. And also: I am in mourning that my kid is so isolated and it seems somehow illogical that we haven’t moved forward more quickly. So: yeah. This is so hard.

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