ENCINITAS — A number of San Dieguito Union High School District teachers feel under attack from both parents and school administrators as public pressure mounts to get students back into the classroom.
Ann Cerny, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach, said the workload for many teachers has drastically increased since the pandemic sent students home last spring. Transitioning lesson plans from in-person learning to the digital space can more than double the workload, she explained.
For the first time in her 27 years of teaching, Cerny is only able to plan her classes a day or two in advance; teach, plan, grade, repeat. Even though teachers are putting in extra hours, they are bombarded by parents who believe their efforts aren’t enough.
“The thing the teachers are struggling with the most is that we are constantly under attack, vilified,” Cerny said. “They want to find someone to blame… it’s easy to bash the teachers. The teachers are feeling beaten up, and I feel like I could do this really hard job if I had the support for the community. We don’t feel like we are being treated as professionals.”
One parent, Heather Dugdale, said teachers have been vilified on social media platforms to the point where they have to defend themselves. Some comments suggested that teachers who don’t feel safe returning to campus should be replaced by substitutes.
Dugdale worries that when the dust settles and students finally return to campus, there may not be enough quality educators left to teach them.
“I’ve never felt so much community divisiveness and lack of compassion and collaboration than I have in this process,” Dugdale said. “Why have we decided teachers are the enemy here?”
As vaccines for the virus continue to roll out and cases begin to subside following the holiday season surge, cases in San Diego County have bounced between about 568 to 1,600 new cases per day in recent weeks. Additionally, the number of people hospitalized has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year.
According to the San Diego County coronavirus website, teachers will be part of the next wave to receive a vaccine, which Cerny believes will allow educators to safely return to schools.
“Get us vaccinated now and we could be ready for a phased reopening by the middle or end of March,” she said. “I think that’s really the answer, the one thing that would make things work.”
Like everyone else, teachers want to return to in-person learning, Cerny said, and many teachers miss their students.
“Nothing is easy about teaching, it’s always multitasking, but in person is much more connected and fun, there isn’t a question about that,” Cerny said. “I love my job and I want my students back in the classroom, but we’re not in a perfect world right now.”