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August 19, 2020 · OPINION

Remote teaching a tough, revealing call for schools

By Cynthia Prior
Fauquier County Public Schools Teacher

The school board’s recent decision to pursue virtual-only instruction must have been like tearing a bandage from an unhealed wound. It was necessary, and no less painful.

After months of retooling, retraining, reconfiguring and hashing out ways to deliver a hybrid offering, they simply didn’t have the manpower or means to make it work. The effort was Herculean. Administrators and teachers who had worked throughout the summer were suddenly thrown back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile, the virus reared its head to remind us that our educators and children are NOT beyond its reach. Bradley Elementary School became a bellwether. A decision had to be made, and there was no way to avoid some hemorrhage.

Watching the process unfold, I couldn’t help thinking at times about a biblical tale that has always intrigued me. King Solomon is approached by two women who claim to have given birth to the same child. In his attempt to discern the truth, Solomon orders the infant to be cut in half: one half of the child to be given to each of the women. He hoped, of course, that the biological mother would be revealed by her passionate response. The child was saved — but it was a calculated risk. Most difficult decisions are. Our educational pivot was no exception.

How WE respond to our school board’s decision is revealing. The finger-pointing, scapegoating and accusations that clutter social media set a bad example for children at the center of the conflict, and reflect poorly on the people of Fauquier County. It distracts us from the legitimate and urgent needs that so many people are facing.

Many individuals and organizations have actively and constructively answered the call. I am encouraged by the response of churches and civic centers creating “learning hubs” for students who need space, WiFi and moral support; I am inspired by food banks and local farmers working to address food insecurity.

I am heartened by all who recognize that compassion is a far more powerful weapon than assault.

County educators — especially teachers — have been at the forefront of that community of care, adapting to the tide of change and honing their skills to keep our schools afloat. Once again, they must restructure educational methods — in short order — to meet new and challenging demands, all the while remaining faithful to a promise every educator makes to advocate for children in loco parentis — “in place of the parent.” It informs the decisions that good teachers make for their students.

People who vilify the men and women to whom they entrust their children every day should consider the inherent paradox of that stance.

Our school board made a difficult, painful and unavoidable decision. The burden of success will ultimately fall on the shoulders of teachers who will rise to the occasion, once again, diligently and without fanfare. But they will need the support of everyone invested in the welfare of our children if we want them to succeed . . . without subjecting them to a Solonmonesque fate.

The writer is a parent, grandparent, Fauquier County Public Schools teacher, and concerned citizen.
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