Many school districts have decided that students will be working from home or will, at a minimum, have the option of doing so. For the schools where one hundred percent of the students will be working from home, some teachers have also been given the option to work from home … some have not.
This raises an interesting question: Should teachers also be able to work from home if students are?
If you are team “work from home,” you have a pretty strong argument to support your case.
- The main reason that students are at home is due to safety concerns. Teachers are no safer from contracting COVID-19 than students are. Depending on their age they might even be at greater risk. If the school district has decided that it is too dangerous to have students in the building it only naturally follows that it is too dangerous to have adults in the building as well.
- In most cases, there is no part of a teacher’s job that cannot be done from home during e-learning. Most online learning platforms and systems require no more than a computer, internet, and a webcam. Teachers can simply take their devices home or use their own personal devices to conduct their online responsibilities. There may be other reasons for teachers to conceivably come in like meetings, but one would assume that if classes can meet online that content teams and grade level teams can as well. The coronavirus mass quarantine has also proven that a lot of these “meetings” really could have just been emails.
- Teachers have families too. If schools and child-care facilities are closed, they need to be able to care for their children as well.
There are arguments against working from home, too.
- From a safety perspective: Tens of teachers coming into a building to work in their rooms every day is a far cry from hundreds of students coming into a building for school every day. Yes, anytime you are stepping out of the isolation of the house you are putting yourself at greater risk. But if only teachers are in the building, they can still safely socially distance and potentially even isolate in their rooms. Teachers returning to an e-learning environment is not equivalent to teachers and students returning to business as usual.
- An administrator’s main job is teacher accountability. It is hard to do this when everyone is working from home. Some schools found out the hard way that students were not the only ones who needed the structure of a traditional school day to be successful. Also, it is much easier to conference with and observe teachers when they are on campus. Additionally, some schools have certain grades that are present in the building and some that are not. It is not fair to the teachers that are doing in-person teaching that their counterparts on the second floor get to stay home.
- Teaching is one of the few professions that was not decimated financially from the pandemic. Teachers in general are still getting paid. It is really not too much to ask that they come to work in person. Other people have to go to work, too. Teachers should not feel entitled to the situation they experienced in April. Extraordinary circumstances dictated working from home for a short time, and while those circumstances have not completely passed, the danger can be mitigated with appropriate precautions.
This is one of those situations where both sides have compelling arguments. However, at the end of the day, the decision is not up to the teachers. It is up to the administration and districts. It will be interesting to see how these parties decide to handle the choice.