Teachers: ‘We need help; we need a break’
Kindergarten teacher at Springfield-Green Spring Gayle Allen presented the board Monday with a typical work day for her, starting early in the morning and running to 9 at night (“Done or not,” she added). She explained that she isn’t the only teacher that’s feeling overwhelmed, as a handful of teachers and administrators were in attendance at the meeting supporting her message.
“We need help. We need a break. We are discouraged,” Allen said to the board. “Fight for us as we fight for our students.”
Principal of Capon Bridge Elementary, John Ferraro also spoke to the board, presenting them with information from a survey he helped conduct from a subsection of Hampshire County teachers. The board was able to flip through the results of this survey and read teacher comments during Ferraro and Allen’s presentation.
“We do the job because we love kids,” Ferraro said simply. “This is new and uncharted for a lot of people.” Pointing at the survey printouts, he added, “It’s very stressful, and you’ll hear the voice of burnout there.”
With teachers having to balance brick-and-mortar students, virtual learners, getting a handle on the Schoology platform and the ever-changing restrictions and guidelines posed by the state, they’re in over their heads, Allen said.
The main issue is that teachers just don’t have the time to devote necessary attention to both the in-person students and the virtual students.
“We don’t have the time during the day to work with the virtual students,” Ferraro said. “It’s coming out of their personal time. We have to do something.”
The board listened intently to the comments and concerns of the teachers present at the meeting, and they were on the same page with them.
“Our teachers are really trying hard to make this work,” said board president Debbie Champ. “We knew when we started this, ‘we don’t know that this is right.’ It’s a new world for all of us.”
Because the county schools are in uncharted waters, Allen and Ferraro were transparent about their uncertainty regarding next steps.
“We don’t expect you to have a silver bullet,” Ferraro said. “We didn’t want to just come in and gripe and complain.”
HHS Alternative Education teacher John Ellifritz shared his thoughts on the matter as well.
“We, as teachers, are capable of teaching virtual. We are capable of doing brick-and-mortar. However, we don’t have the time to set both platforms up,” he said. “We have to sacrifice a family. I have to sacrifice spending time with my 2 kids and my wife in order to keep both things going.”
After hearing similar concerns from other teachers, board vice president Ed Morgan moved that Fridays starting Oct. 2 until the end of the semester will be used for teachers to aid in the development and training for Schoology and “overcoming the trials of virtual teaching,” with special considerations made to some of the HHS Career and Technical Education programs that are dependent on credit hours and hands-on learning. Board member Bernie Hott seconded the motion, and it was a unanimous decision.
“Our teachers are busting their tails,” Morgan remarked, and Champ echoed the sentiment.
“When we originally talked about it, I didn’t like the 4-1 approach,” she said. “But, we’ve figured out it’s not working. Our teachers are giving 120 percent, and we’re drowning.”