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‘In Defense of Our Teachers,’ An Essay By Dave Grohl

In Defense of Our Teachers

Cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz: In Defense of Our Teachers


You don’t need to be a fan of the Foo Fighters to appreciate what Dave Grohl just did. He recorded a short essay, ‘In Defense of Our Teachers,’ getting to the essential and clearly exposing the situation. And Dave knows because his single mother was a teacher, he knows because he saw her being both a devoted parent and an engaging educator, he knows because he witnessed how hard it is to be a teacher, he knows how this work can be unrewarding and rewarding, and he knows how much selflessness is involved. There is no doubt that his mother, who raised two children alone while teaching and working a few other jobs, is a hero.

Dave Grohl has of course decided to record this essay in response to the terrible decision taken by the Trump administration to reopen schools, and with the help of his mother, who is now retired, he makes excellent points and asks the right questions.

As a teacher myself, I can tell you that most people don’t realize how many challenges teachers will have to face if they are back in the classroom: masks and distancing, temperature checks… Dave is right, there is no way 6th, 7th, or 8th graders are gonna practice physical distancing and keep a mask on their faces for 6 to 7 hours! Remember, students are at school all day long, from 8 am to 4 pm or even later when there are after-school activities and study halls, while lunchtimes, lunchrooms, and cafeterias will be other nightmares. How could we keep up with the constant sanitization of public restrooms and crowded hallways? How could we deal with crowded buses?

Many classes like sports classes but also science classes require a lot of material sharing and plenty of collaboration, how would it be safe for students to touch the same basket-ball and share the same laboratory equipment? There would be no possibility of making such classes safe.

And Dave is absolutely right about air-conditioning systems, they have been demonstrated to help spread the virus and while classrooms would not be even survivable during late summer and early fall in many parts of the US. We often have the hottest temperatures of the year in September in LA.

Many people do not realize that a high school teacher is in contact with hundreds of kids every day, most of the teachers have a new class (a batch of 15-20-30 kids or more depending of the school) each hour, so at the end of the day, which consists of up to 6 or 7 periods, a teacher has seen a lot of kids and has been exposed to a lot of people. Knowing that each kid is in contact with several persons from his or her family, schools could become super-spreaders.

Even though kids tend to get less infected with the coronavirus and have milder symptoms compared to adults, we don’t know what could happen when/if schools reopen. Remember, we closed them in March before the pandemic had even started. Studies, that have shown less infection among kids, were actually done on very young kids (5-9), and so the results would not apply for teenagers who would tend to spread the virus more efficiantly. Many scientists think that reopening schools would be a total experiment, as we simply don’t have data to know the answers. Plus, many teachers are in their 40s, 50s, or even 60s, which greatly increases their risks to die. And what about the janitors (often not too young) who basically are in contact with every surface of a school? Would you accept to participate in an experiment that could be deadly? I prefer to pass.

And to the argument that some countries have reopened their schools successfully, I would say that these countries have contained the virus and managed to flatten the curve, while the curve is still going up in the US. Los Angeles is currently at an orange level threat, with the most COVID-19 cases in the country, and we have even surpassed New York,… It would be a deadly experiment.

When you listen to Dave’s monologue, you would never guess Grohl is a high school dropped out – he says he was a terrible student, completely disengaged with a severe case of ADD who just wanted to play music… But he writes elegantly, goes to the point, and doesn’t miss to address the overly stupid comment made by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: ‘Science should not stand in the way.’ Meanwhile, he has some funny and perfect words for Betsy Devos, saying he would not ‘trust the U.S. secretary of percussion to tell me how to play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ if they had never sat behind a drum set, so why should any teacher trust Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell them how to teach, without her ever having sat at the head of a class?’

I am still not a big fan of the Foo Fighters but thank you, Dave Grohl, for coming to the defense of the teachers, thank you for this amazing and heartfelt essay,

‘Teachers want to teach, not die,’ Dave Grohl

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