We asked the teachers how their year went. They warn about an exit on arrival

Since then, the question of basic safety has also returned to sharp focus after last month’s school shooting in Uvalade, Texas.

So, how are teachers reflecting that year and the future ahead?

We caught up with Reinholdt; Suzanne Polk-Hoffs, pre-K teacher at Millbridge, Maine; And Tiki Boa-Logan, a 4th grade teacher at Roulette in Texas, to hear their thoughts.

Bulletproof backpack and an epidemic

“Honestly, I think we’ve thrown an internal tube,” Reinhold said, reflecting his December assessment that teachers are drowning. “So we’re floating, but we’re half way back to the ship. We have a lot of work to do.”

With the recent shooting in his own state, Boa-Logan said returning to normalcy seems increasingly unattainable.

“We always pay attention and [thinking]‘You’ve seen something, say something,’ but this current shooting has brought everything back, ’he said.

Ubhalde Rob Primary School
Shooting at Rob Elementary School has made many feel unsafe that students have returned to the classroom.
J. C. Hong / AP

In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, Boa-Logan’s husband bought her a bulletproof backpack, which she still brings to school.

“I’m thinking of saying it’s very ridiculous in an elementary school setting,” he said. “But I mean, that’s what we’re working on right now.”

Boyea-Logan teaches in the fourth grade, and has seen how much the epidemic has hampered the development of her students.

“I think at the beginning of the school year, I basically got second graders because they were in school the whole time,” he said.

“Even though you’re a fourth-grade teacher, you’re teaching passionate kids at second-grade level. And academically, we’re back to doing miracles, like, ‘Hey, we have to catch these kids, we have to fill this void.'”

Outside of academic development, teachers are also raising serious concerns about mental health.

Polk-Hoffes said that although his pre-K students were “new” to him at a young age, he noticed concern among his colleagues.

“They were very worried about this year’s students, because they saw a lot of depression. Someone even brought a cutting child, they were afraid that a student would start cutting again,” Pollock-Hafses said.

“Students were learning in isolation, then they came back, and they were overwhelmed, and they felt a trauma. And unfortunately, not all schools are equipped to deal with the trauma that students felt during the epidemic.”

Teachers can be driven to resign

Although Boyea-Logan and Polk-Hoffses remain enthusiastic about their careers, both are concerned about the sustainability of their working conditions.

“I’m just worried about our young academics who haven’t been on the field for as long as I have,” Polk-Hoffs said. “I’ve been in teaching for 21 years, I still feel strong and resilient. And I just want to let young educators know, please find support somewhere in your school, in your family, please don’t leave the profession.”

This is one thing that Reinhold, Polk-Hoffs and Boa-Logan are all warning about: the possible emigration of teachers in the summer.

“My fear is that during the summer, they’ll just say, ‘I can’t do it anymore, because it was too hard,'” Pollock-Hoffes said.

Students are waiting in line at the school
Teachers are warning about the mental health challenges posed by the epidemic. (Brian Anderson / AP) (Brian Anderson / AP)

Boa-Logan can understand that thought on its own. For him, the question is not whether he is Wants To go, but whether he is To be able to.

“It’s put a lot more pressure on our shoulders,” he said. “I think they expect our ABCs to push 18 different balls and jump on one leg when they say backwards. I mean, it feels like that. And I feel like there’s no relief.”

Boyea-Logan said he hopes lawmakers and higher authorities in the school district will look into the issue of teachers leaving.

“And I hope they really look at it and really ask these teachers, and really pay attention to their answers, why they’re leaving. [asking]’What can we do to fix it?’

“Because if they don’t, they will bleed really good teachers for the near future.”

Reinhold said the teachers were naturally “eternally optimistic” about getting the job done, but would reach their limits when Polk-Hoffs was worried about an exit and asked someone to read it:

“Understand how you can help your local schools. You need to, because these children are our future. We need to educate them. Please help us educate them.”

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