Teacher speaks out on feeling 'forced' to go back to the classroom | KAALTV.com

Teacher speaks out on feeling 'forced' to go back to the classroom

KAAL-TV
Created: January 22, 2021 10:47 AM

(ABC 6 News) - Anne Campbell Muenchow is an elementary school teacher in Minnesota, and after reaching out to ABC 6 News on her concerns with getting students and teachers back into the classroom.

RELATED: Dr. Patty Price on the toll on mental health while distance learning

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BETSY SINGER:
Anne Campbell is an elementary school teacher in Minnesota. She's going to be doing some switching of roles, but still, you'll be with elementary students, and you reached out to our newsroom after having seen some of the stories that we've covered regarding the parent who want their kids back in the classroom. Now, I know that there's another side to this because I have plenty of friends who are teachers as well, and they have their own concerns about getting back into the classroom. Talk to me about the concerns. 

ANNE CAMPBELL MUENCHOW:
Well, there are a lot of concerns. First, I would like to say that when I saw the story, it was posted by some Rochester teachers, and I reached out to teachers in Rochester and asked if anyone else would be willing to do this interview and there was a lot of concern with that. I heard things like private messages saying I'm too scared to speak out. Someone else said that they got a directive from their district that they were not supposed to speak to the press without first talking to the school district's public relations person. And so I feel that our teachers' stories are not getting out as much. 

BETSY SINGER: 
I did an interview with the governor when he said that districts would be able to decide on their own, and I heard from a lot of teachers after that because I talked to the superintendent of the school and said there are teachers who would like to continue distance learning and they're being told that they can't. And sure enough, these teachers couldn't speak to me on the record because they're afraid for their jobs, they don't want to be in the classrooms because of their concerns, but they don't get that choice. 

ANNE CAMPBELL MUENCHOW: 
Exactly. I've been they're being forced back into the classroom. I had a friend who has lived with her parents for about a decade and bought another house for her parent because she's being forced back into the classroom. I have friends that are single parents that are being forced back into the classroom. So there are lots of teachers who even have put in ADA requests, who have gone through the process, who have jumped over all the hurdles that are put in front of us and are still being denied and forced back into the classroom. 

BETSY SINGER:
I don't want it to become an us versus them situation, which so much in society is right now because of this pandemic. Well, we believe this, or we believe that, and then it pits people against each other. When it comes to education, I understand the concerns, absolutely from these teachers. They also have elderly parents as you're talking about. I have elderly parent, and I don't want to expose them, either. And then you've got parents, on the other hand, saying my kids aren't learning, the quality of virtual learning just isn't there, and so what do we do?

ANNE CAMPBELL MUENCHOW:
I think we're stuck between a bad choice and a bad choice. 

BETSY SINGER:
I agree. 

ANNE CAMPBELL MUENCHOW: 
The reality is there's not a great solution to this. But I think we need to honor all sides involved. I think that one thing that a lot of teachers I've talked about that weighs heavy on our hearts is us versus them mentality. As teacher, we give our heart and soul to our students. We love our students. You hear the rhetoric of the teachers saying we want to be in the classroom with our students. It's not just a line told by our union. We're there because we love teaching. It fills us up in ways that, you know -- you it's like a vacation. My coworkers say things like I want more live meets with my students. I almost feel like I'm in the classroom with them. So we don't just say that to make people happy. We love our students and we want to be there. And so hearing from parents that what we're doing isn't good enough, it's really deprofessionalizing and demoralizing. 

Teachers that I know are working longer hours than we ever have and we know it's not as good as classroom instruction. It can't be, but we're doing the best that we possibly can with what we're given, because it's not a great situation. And going back toa classroom, full in-person with 28 other students, you know, the classroom that windows don't open, which is what a lot of us are thinking in the city, isn't a good solution. That's dangerous. 

And we're being told students may not be able to social distance; even three feet might not be possible at all times. That there aren't going to be people on buses to watch students' social distancing. And even the reality of going back to the classroom isn't what we think of it. It's not what we're used to. It's not the teacher giving you a hug when you walk in the door. It's not the preschooler who's scared because they haven't been in preschool before and the teacher gives them a big hug and helps them take off their boots. That can't happen. And so the reality that we're putting our students into when we say we want them back into school, I don't think is what people envision. 

BETSY SINGER: And we talk about it and we bring both sides to the table and hope people have an understanding. More patience, I think, is what we need on all sides of this. And to listen to people and their concerns. You didn't have to do this and so I really appreciate you speaking on behalf of the teachers who are afraid for their jobs because you are saying the things that they would like to say. 


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