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Editorial: Who cares about our teachers?

Let’s just call him John.

He’s a teacher in the Davie County School System. He’s a husband, a father, a son, a grandson.

John cares about his job and does it to the best of his ability. He cares about our children, and let’s them know he cares every day.

Those every days are filled with temperature checks, masks, trying to keep children six feet apart with their masks on, and cleaning. The cleaning never ends. Oh, and let’s don’t forget. He’s there to teach them something, as well.

John hangs in there because he cares.

Then comes the news that Davie County is in Code Red, meaning there is a critical community spread of the coronavirus here. In other words, it’s getting serious, folks.

John didn’t ask to be in this situation, but like the rest of us, here he is. And he’s vowed to make the best of it.

John is careful. But he’s in a room with 15 children who come from all walks of life. His own children haven’t seen his mother since the summer. He hasn’t seen his grandparents since last Christmas.

Still, he cares. He cares enough to go into a classroom with 15 kids who have been who knows where the night before.

But who cares about John and the other educators in the Davie County School System?

John is beginning to wonder.

“My hope is fading,” he wrote in a letter to this newspaper.

Those students help to cause his anguish. Many talked about traveling to visit family during Thanksgiving, some on an airplane. Some of those students fail to wear masks without prodding. Some of those students tell him that their parents say the virus data is fake.

It’s enough to make a teacher throw his hands into the air and give up, but John marches on.

And then he drives through Downtown Mocksville and is even more concerned. He sees crowds at restaurants and other establishments, few masks, very little social distancing. “These people are the parents of, the siblings of, and some of the very students that enter my classroom.”

John’s ideas are pretty much opposite to those of school officials, who to their credit, have had more students in class than most districts with minimal problems. The schools may be doing what is right for the students, but what about the teachers?

Listen to what John (not his real name), has to say.

“I’ve never felt more unsafe or undervalued in my career as an educator. My decisions and efforts to isolate as much as possible to protect my family, my colleagues, and my students are futile because of the deplorable behavior of the members of my community, and although my family and I will likely remain at home for the holidays, the following week I will enter the same classroom with students who have traveled across state and country visiting extended family and friends, exposing myself and my family to the risks of COVID-19. And this situation could be prevented if the higher powers within our school system or state government would make the decision to enter into remote instruction for a minimum of two weeks following the upcoming holidays.

“Please consider the educators. We have families, too.”

Some pretty strong words from a pretty important person.

We have empathy for John and all other educators. We pray for John. We care about John. We need to do what is necessary to keep John and all others like him on the job.

But shutting down the schools – even for two weeks – seems a bit overboard at this juncture. We know that children are not affected by the virus as seriously as others. We know from a few months experience that the experiment – and that’s what it is, an experiment – of keeping students in classrooms as much as possible is working.

Still, we can’t forget our eductors and their needs. So much has been asked of them this calendar year. They deserve our respect and our gratitude.

What can you do to help?

Practice those three W’s. Avoid crowds. Avoid unnecessary travel.

Davie County is a community that is proud of its school system. Let’s make it a community where our educators are just as proud to be working here.

– Mike Barnhardt