I moved to Montclair with my growing family in 2011. We chose Montclair for the school district and diverse community. A couple of years ago, we were among the families marching, fighting to get our teachers what they deserved. Their contract and their paychecks. While I never thought my children would have to be activists at such a young age, I had never been more proud.

Not even tying their own shoes yet, they eagerly went out to speak up for the very people who are meant to be teaching and taking care of them. The people showing them how the world works were not being treated fairly. That’s a harsh message to these kids.

My children are both diagnosed with multiple special needs and work hard to do what comes naturally to others. My children thrive on consistency and routine. My children have been taught to trust the adults around them. “Listen to your teachers.” “Show respect.” “Follow the rules they’re giving you.” 

And my children love and trust their teachers. This year, that trust has been broken, and their image of teachers has been altered. Neither believe the teachers when they say what the schedule will be. Their anxiety is through the roof. They’ve been yanked back and forth so many times.

And They’re Not Even Going In For Hybrid.

They know they’re staying home. And they ask me why their principal wants their teachers to go in if it’s not safe yet. They ask why their friends might go in if it’s not safe yet. They don’t trust that their people are being protected.

COVID-19 numbers are higher right now than they were months ago. Some people have gotten vaccinated. We are so close to being so much safer. But we are not there yet. So when our teachers go back in and some students go back in, I will be forced to answer the questions again.

“Why is my teacher gone again?” “Who will be the substitute today?” “Why are my friends in the classroom wearing coats?”

How is this going to work? Why isn’t there a solid plan? Why do we all keep getting yanked back and forth?

We’ve already handled most of this school year at home. We’ve already navigated Seesaw and Zoom and handled this adjustment with as much grace as possible. Is the benefit really that great to scrapping all of that and rushing in before it’s truly safe? Is there really a benefit to risking the safety of our kids and our teachers?

And — this one is big — if this district keeps on taking the teachers for granted, keeps forcing them to deal with an unfair hand, keeps being treated like they’re unimportant, how will our kids continue to have good teachers? We need to start treating them better and taking care of them. They’re taking care of our children, our families. They’re literally teaching the generation that will grow up and take care of all of us one day. What are we teaching them?

We cannot take these teachers for granted.

We cannot lose them.

Randi Goodman
Montclair

Editor’s Note: The letter above was first provided to Montclair Local by the Montclair Education Association, which is in a dispute with the Montclair School District over whether and when to resume in-person education. Montclair Local has independently contacted the writer for verification of authorship.


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