Every now and again, I peek inside D.C. Public Schools classrooms to see what teachers are up to. After all, as teaching goes, so goes learning.
My latest peek, though, was not by foot but courtesy of the Washington Informer newspaper — a weekly community paper whose original publisher, Calvin Rolark, was a mentor of mine. It reported this week that teachers are overwhelmed and why.
“As of Friday, Oct. 22, DCPS reported 85 teacher vacancies, 41 percent of which are part-time, temporary or adult education night school positions,” the story said, adding that “during a committee meeting earlier in the month, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) received data that placed the number of vacancies at 160.”
Amid the teacher and substitute teacher shortages, administrators and other staff members take on substitute teaching roles in addition to their other responsibilities. But the juggling isn’t always effective and/or efficient.
“If you had a teacher and substitute teacher shortage and a principal or assistant principal would step in, they can’t do both things,” said Board of Education member Jessica Sutter, who represents Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill.
“So, they pull on staff members like librarians and it’s kind of tricky. We’re realizing that schools need more people for their work,” Ms. Sutter told the Informer.
In shorthand, that means not all administrators and teachers can multitask.
A lot of what’s got “teachers buckling under stress” came about during the COVID-19 hiatus of most of 2020 and most of this year, when teaching was limited to virtual facetime. Ditto the learning — or lack thereof.
With students returning to classrooms for in-person learning, teachers do not think they are academically prepared.
The teachers and their unions made lots of demands prior to in-school instruction for this school year, and their collective requests regarding pandemic-related health and safety protocols added to school employees’ responsibilities.
Now it’s time to cut to the chase: Families need to push political shenanigans aside and jump to the head of the academic line, and City Hall must cut the red tape labeled teaching and learning.
As “Uncle Calvin” proves, the pandemic itself is not the problem.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]