For Teachers Who Are Also Parents, There Are No Good Answers This Fall


Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have already faced a major challenge: homeschooling their children while working full-time.

As back-to-school season starts gearing up, many parents are getting updates from their school districts on what classes may look like this fall. But what if you’re a parent who also teaches in a classroom? Those individuals are being faced with impossible decisions and very uncertain outcomes.

HuffPost Parenting asked parents in our Facebook community who are also teachers for their honest thoughts on the matter. Get into the mind of a teacher/parent below.

“Teachers are just as desperate to return to the classroom as parents are to send their children back. But I’m fearful of the rush to get them back to school as normally scheduled. The state education agencies are finally giving guidance, but don’t include answers to the questions many of us have. What happens to me if I get sick from a student? Do I have to use my sick days to stay home? What happens if my children get sick and have to quarantine? Why are the state education agencies still working remotely when they expect me to return with a class full of students? Why aren’t teachers being consulted just like the parents on our preferences? Who is responsible for online learning when I will already be teaching for a full day in my classroom? How can our leaders (President Donald Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) threaten to take away how funding if we don’t open schools? It’s not a teacher’s responsibility to open up the country. I can’t afford not to work at my school, but I also can’t afford a death in my family over irresponsible decisions made by our leaders.” ― Rebecca O’Dell

“I am a teacher in Texas, and I feel as if the government couldn’t care less about our lives and well-being. If I could, I would resign, but I feel I have to choose between my life and my income. As a parent, I will not send my children for in-person classes. However, my kids are in high school and middle school. I also care for my 65-year-old father, who is a heart attack and stroke survivor. I will do whatever I can to minimize his risk. I feel that the people making these decisions for us have not had an immediate family member seriously sick with COVID-19 … if so, they’d understand. We’re not just statistics or numbers. We’re real people with families, and we’re scared.” ― Lisa R.

“I’m a parent of two littles (6-year-old going into first grade and a 3-year-old) and a university professor. I am also a recent breast cancer survivor and am actually currently recovering from breast surgery that occurred yesterday (it was canceled back in March due to pandemic), putting me in a COVID-19 risk group. As an academic, I feel lucky that I have some more flexibility in what I do and how I do it, but it doesn’t make this easy to work full time and do e-learning when I’m not well myself. One thing I know is that if we do not take the currently rising COVID-19 cases seriously, we have no business putting our children, teachers and communities at risk by opening schools. If schools cannot reopen, we are heading (and are likely already in) a mental health pandemic and our children will live with its trauma.” ― Elizabeth Papautsky

Children line up to enter their classrooms at an elementary school in Strasbourg,  France. Primary and middle schools in the country reopened on June 22.
Children line up to enter their classrooms at an elementary school in Strasbourg,  France. Primary and middle schools in the country reopened on June 22.

“Nobody wins this fall! My biggest concerns are around safety and funding — underfunded districts, with even greater demands being placed on school systems than ever before. As a classroom teacher, I spend a lot of my own money for the classroom and supplies. … And balancing a crazy schedule with my kids being home part time while I am likely working in the building full time. I get the stress of that as a parent, but it shouldn’t fall on the schools to be babysitters. I see so many things saying kids are the least likely to transmit, so let them all go to school. But what about the staff? What happens when one of us gets sick? The virus is still too new to really know for sure. Every teacher I know wants to be back in the buildings with kids in front of us. We want to work on getting them back into the routine and focus on their social emotional health. But parents and businesses need to be accommodating ― it cannot fall exclusively on school districts to figure it out.” — Michelle Geller

“I’m a high school teacher in Iowa, and I have three kids (9, 4 and 2). Remote learning and hybrid learning are less than ideal for many, and I’m empathetic because I’m going to feel the brunt as well in trying to secure child care while I work full time, but we have to stop placing of society’s burdens on teachers. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our teachers and children in effort to keep kids fed, watched and given the variety of other services schools give.” ― Leigha Philips

“As a teacher and a parent, I have zero ambivalence (“mixed emotions”) toward reopening schools. … I see no viable option of face-to-face instruction. Even under ideal circumstances we are drastically overcrowded and underfunded. Continued, yet improved, distance learning is the only safe option without a vaccine or effective treatment.” ― Mical Bryant

“I am an elementary teacher who is shifting from the Gifted and Talented teacher to the school counselor. I have a daughter who is 14 and just got into a specialized magnet high school, which offers no transportation. While I know she can handle most of the academic options she could encounter, our elementary school hours now have to shift, which means she will have to find somewhere to be for three hours a day until I can pick her up. My husband is also an elementary teacher who works two other jobs. We also have twin boys who are 10 years old. To have to choose between two options of a few days of schooling for my youngest children would mean they are home alone trying to navigate their online curriculum with two parents who work four jobs between them. We have no grandparents, no family here, and because of preexisting heart conditions for one of my children and myself, now we also have to decide if staying home and me simply teaching them from when I arrive home until bedtime is the new ‘best option.’” ― Sara Ellen Cosgrove

“As a parent and teacher, I see the positives and negatives of every situation. How will my students be impacted if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic and someone (an adult, likely) contracts it and dies? I fear these kids will be traumatized in ways we can’t even imagine — even if we can’t positively link cases, I fear students will blame themselves. What if one our medically fragile students contracts the virus? Will the school be blamed? Will the staff? These are things that keep me awake. Yes, I worry about how much the kids are learning, but that doesn’t keep me awake at night. I’m terrified to exist in a petri dish with no requirements for masks, no mandatory reduction in class size — nothing from the state to help our schools. We will have kids who come to school sick. How will we isolate those students when our buildings aren’t large enough to house the kids we have?” ― Nicole Jenkins Bouas

A teacher and students wearing hats designed to help them practice social distancing at a school in Thailand. 
A teacher and students wearing hats designed to help them practice social distancing at a school in Thailand. 

“We’re in a community that has mandatory masks, but I’m not sure how feasible that is all day in both the high school I teach at and the elementary school my daughter attends. Kids will take them off. We also have rules about not having more than 10 people inside a building. My school has 1,200 kids. I’m scared school will be joyless as a teacher and for my daughter as a student while we try to limit close interactions. I’m so worried about getting sick, my coworkers getting sick, or my child’s teachers getting sick. I’m worried about not being able to spend holidays with my parents out of fear for their health. It feels like we’re all supposed to smile and take one for the economy.” ― Sara Naatz

“The human brain/heart can hold many contradictions. I love my students. They’re the highlight of my job. I care deeply about their safety and the safety of their family and people they come in contact with outside of school. I care deeply about my safety and the people I come in contact with at home. I care deeply about the safety of my colleagues, administration, support staff and all adults at my school. I miss the classroom like crazy. I need to be able to care for my own children. I did not become a teacher so that I could teach remotely. I did not become a teacher so that I could teach students staring ahead, in rows, wearing maskings, separated by plexiglass, not sharing materials, isolated from rest of students, no clubs, no teams, no concerts, no plays, no assemblies, etc. One student death from COVID-19 upon school reopening is one too many. One adult death from COVID-19 upon school reopening is one too many.” ― Chelsea W. Alsberg

“Thankfully the school where I teach has decided to do the first nine weeks virtually, so I know how to lesson plan and prepare throughout the summer. My kid’s school is looking at a 50/50 in-person/online schedule with small classes. I don’t see how it will work. I change my mind every minute on whether I feel safe sending them. I also want to be in the classroom; I miss a class full of students and that energy. I worry about everyone’s mental health as much as their physical health.” ― Cara Bearden

“Have you ever potty trained a kid while working from home? I can’t count how many times my son interrupted video calls with his pants around his ankles loudly announcing that he has just pooped and was ready for me to wipe him! How many tears shed over a puddle of pee on the floor that I couldn’t address because I had a parent on the line in near-tears about their own child’s struggles. To boot, I was basically a glorified truancy officer and not feeling like I was making a positive impact on my students at all. Remote learning is a struggle. When it is poorly executed due to any combination of an inadequately funded district, undersupported teachers, and parents/students in over their heads, it is downright catastrophic. Do I want to be back in front of my students? Of course! Do I want to get away from my own spawn for a bit and send them to their loving early-childhood educators and friends for hours of learning and play? Absolutely! However, I know the reality of schools. They are cesspools. They are inadequately funded. Their procedures on paper don’t always match up with what’s actually happening. How, in good faith, could I expose my children and myself to those happy little germ festivals?” ― Sophia Grassi

“I am a teacher, my husband works at a local hospital, and our son is supposed to start kindergarten in a few weeks. We haven’t gotten any new information in the past week or so, and that leaves me so anxious about trying to plan for multiple scenarios. I have not heard a word about providing any type of child care to students of teachers. We will be working a full five days, even in a hybrid-type model. On top of that, teachers will somehow have to navigate a COVID-19-safe classroom for A/B groups, plus provide online instruction, while keeping themselves safe. If we have a hybrid schedule and my son is only at school two days, I will no doubt have to hire a nanny, which will cost me more monthly than preschool did.” ― Elizabeth Neumann Hericz

A student wearing a face shield attends school in Sri Lanka after their school was reopened this week.
A student wearing a face shield attends school in Sri Lanka after their school was reopened this week.

“I am a primary school special education teacher in Illinois. My first thought when I heard that our school would possibly be open was excitement! I would literally wear a spacesuit all day every day if it meant I could spend the day teaching my students face to face. Being out of the classroom has made me feel like I have lost a part of my identity, so a sense of normalcy would feel absolutely amazing! However, my excitement turned to panic due to my underlying medical conditions. I constantly battle between my excitement and fear on a daily basis. My students need their teacher, but my own children need their mother.” ― Krista Herrin

“I’m mostly worried about schools currently being used as a political pawn in election season. We have 20+ kids in most classrooms, with very little space to social distance. Districts are working on plans that will accommodate most parents to the best of their ability but school should not be viewed as child care. It is. That’s just the nature of it. … So many questions, too much politics, and not enough thinking of the small things or the little people.” ― Courtney Anne

“I’m at a loss. The hybrid option is a terrible idea. How can I be at school and at home? Who will watch my kids if I don’t have the same schedule? Grandparents are out, because they can’t take the risk of exposure. I can’t bring them with me to school because then they are taking a risk, and who will watch them while I teach? Distance learning is the only option that I can see. Except either my students or my own children get the raw end of the deal because I can’t teach first grade, preschool, and manage 30+ students every day. Last spring my kids didn’t have daily set meets with their teachers, but I did. I couldn’t begin teaching them until after 3 p.m. each day. I’m working with my son over the summer to catch him up and make sure he doesn’t regress too much. I have been debating looking into taking a leave of absence if things don’t seem better this fall. However, that leaves my school in a lurch. But it will help my family. As my kids say, ‘I hate this virus.’” ― Sarah Nevin

“I think kids need to be with other kids. I was never worried that my kids were missing out on learning because I supplemented. But there are so many things that I wonder about. If these athletes are getting tested every two days, how often are teachers going to be getting tested? My incoming class has 35 kids in the roster. There is no such thing as social distancing with that class size.” ― Karen Selsky Martin

“As a teacher I feel the need to go back for equity, but I definitely don’t feel confident it is safe, or that the school and budgets make safety possible. I feel disposable … and that the government and parents don’t actually care about education but about us acting as a glorified free babysitting service. I wonder how, if I never had necessary learning supplies, can I expect necessary health supplies? It’s a lose-lose situation, and decades of underfunding [and] overcrowding have created a school environment that’s not feasibly safe. Lack of leadership on a national level and cavalier attitudes about wearing masks give me no confidence that families will be taking precautions, and I am not disposable.” ― Meghan Johanna Carlson

A primary school student gestures as if asking for a hug from her teacher at the end of the school year in Barcelona. 
A primary school student gestures as if asking for a hug from her teacher at the end of the school year in Barcelona. 

“The questions that need to be addressed: How can we give students (especially younger one) the chance to move and take breaks? There is no point being in school if we are going to ask them to sit at their desk for seven hours straight. Will teachers/staff have to use their own sick time if they need to quarantine due to exposure? Where will we get substitute teachers if someone is out ill or on quarantine? Who will support remote/virtual learning in a hybrid model where students are there on a rotating schedule? Teachers would still be teaching full time and won’t have the capacity.” ― Kandi Ellis

“I have so many mixed emotions. The anxiety and thoughts about what could happen during the upcoming school year keep me awake at night. I want to protect and take care of my own children as well as my students. Do I stay home to protect my children and myself to limit our exposure but lose an income and benefits? Or do I go out into the pandemic and put my kiddos into child care/preschool and risk multiple chances of exposure to ensure my students have me as their teacher, are safe at school, and my family keeps an income and benefits.? I feel either choice [means] I fail someone. I fail as a mother in protecting my children from COVID-19 or I fail as a teacher, leaving my students and coworkers during unprecedented times in teaching. …. It is a decision I struggle with on a daily basis.” ― Rachel Gogel Brussell

“As a mother of four young children and a full-time teacher for 16 years, I honestly feel like many, many parents aren’t thinking about the safety of the teachers. Trust me: I want my kids back in school as much as the next mom! Homeschooling two older kids and taking care of a 4-year-old and 1-year-old while my husband and I both taught remotely this spring was an impossible task. But I also feel I don’t even have a choice of what to do with our children. We have to send them because we are expected to go back to work.” ― Sarah Thearle

“My oldest is due to start kindergarten in the fall. I will not be sending him to in-person classes. We will distance learn or I will homeschool him myself. I don’t believe for a second that schools will be properly supplied with PPE and cleaning supplies. They don’t buy us pencils or scissors or glue sticks! You think they’ll get us Clorox wipes?!” ― Elaine Sylvester

Quotes have been edited and condensed for style and clarity.

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