Despite what you may have heard Prime Minister Scott Morrison say on Wednesday, schools in NSW remained open until the holidays, will be open after the holidays and will turn no student away.
All teachers have been at work (some remotely, some on site); we have been providing learning for all students and are acutely aware of the inequality that the PM has suddenly discovered exists in the education system.
Teachers across the state have been designing learning that can be done remotely, online, on paper, or in school. The politicians have moved the goalposts and changed the rules of the game as they work through what are ultimately political decisions about if and how schools are open.
Throughout this our leadership has had to parse these messages, filter this down to teachers and try and balance this with the needs of our communities. We've had to adapt and learn quickly, design a new way of learning that has often been confronting and challenging for many of us, bring worried parents and carers along with us and support our own vulnerable colleagues and families.
We understand it is hard for families with kids at home, trying to adapt to your own new working arrangements or, worse still, the reality that work's no longer there. Many of us are experiencing the same challenges in our own households and families.
Remember, when you hear the PM speak, the choice about whether schools are open is a political one, not a choice by the workforce.
To then hear yesterday that teachers should get behind supporting students' learning and welfare as though we have any kind of power in this situation, as though this is not what we always have front of mind was, quite frankly, insulting.
Despite the unpleasantness of having your whole profession sit through some Grade A public relations gaslighting, it's revealing to think why that might be occurring. Please don't let this attempt to pit teachers against the needs of families and communities go unquestioned or unchallenged.
Educators, including our leadership, have worked incredibly hard during this period to support students and families. It certainly doesn't benefit us to redesign what we teach or give out resources that aren't needed at home if the model of delivery abruptly changes. So why the mixed messaging?
Remember, when you hear the PM speak, the choice about whether schools are open is a political one, not a choice by the workforce. When he says remote learning disadvantages certain parts of society, it is because political and economic decisions have been made for years that have created these disadvantages.
COVID-19 is not responsible for the digital divide, the lack of books at home, childhood poverty, the domestic and family abuse that yesterday became the driver to get kids back to school. The pandemic has exacerbated these things and shone a light on the deep problems that exist in Australian society.
Remember this when the PM offers us a simple fix to getting back to normal. Maybe normal was broken all along. Maybe, rather than rushing back, we should take a look from first principles what we want to get back to.
Perhaps. I hope so.
The writer is an Illawarra teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.
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