March 7, 2021

Kurt Ostrow: Don’t Be Angry With Teachers For Wanting A Vaccine. Be Furious It’s Taken This Long

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At WBUR, Cognoscenti is a blog covering “thinking that matters,” and one of their contributors is Kurt Ostrow, a public school teacher in Massachusetts. In last week’s piece, he comments on the tensions between the desire to re-open school buildings, vaccinate teachers, and give the Big Standardized Test.

After President Joe Biden said school staff should be vaccinated by the end of the month, Baker reversed course. Educators are now eligible for vaccination at state sites starting next week. (And CVS, even sooner.)

I welcome this news, even if I hardly take it as proof of Baker’s change of heart. Forgive me. It’s March, and I’m jilted.

Teachers and our unions have gotten a bad rap lately: We’re obstructionists; we’re selfish. Truth is, teachers want their students learning safely in person just as much as their parents do.

In my poor urban district, hybrid and remote learning have proven catastrophically hard not only for my high school seniors, but also for me. I miss my kids and the relationships made uniquely possible by a classroom. I’ve never been so miserable.

His students have been struggling with motivation, technology, and distance school, and their teachers have suffered with them.

Of course, teachers don’t have a monopoly on misery in this pandemic, which has now dragged on for a year. I’m depressed, not naïve. In fact, most teachers have been lucky to keep our stable, often unionized jobs.

Still, we’ve been failed. We’ve been betrayed. We all have. We elect leaders to keep us safe, and we haven’t been — far from it. Federal and state governments let the virus surge, and surge and surge again. Over 500,000 Americans are dead.

We should all be furious, but not with teachers. Let’s direct our anger at the plutocrats responsible for the mess we’re in. That teachers around the country have advocated for themselves to be early recipients of the vaccine does not reflect poorly on us or our unions. Safe working conditions aren’t a luxury. Rather, it reminds us why all workers, especially essential workers, deserve strong unions in the first place.

And despite the struggles, he notes, state officials “remain hellbent on administering MCAS this spring, as if only its data could diagnose the losses our students have suffered.

Read the full piece here.

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