Local teachers voice concerns over return to school in the fall but say they’ll be there

Workloads, their mental and physical health as well as their students' have some worried about school reopening
Teachers are voicing their concerns over a return to school, but say they are ready to go back.
Teachers are voicing their concerns over a return to school, but say they are ready to go back.(AP)
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 4:47 PM EDT
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BREWER, Maine (WABI) - School reopening has many concerned.

Teachers are no exception, tackling how to educate students during a pandemic.

We spoke with two local teachers, David Hamel, a Social Studies teacher in Orono and Paul Wellman, an English teacher in Brewer.

“Teachers are, we’re a rare breed in that we really enjoy going back to school,” says Hamel.

But back to school in 2020 is going to look a lot different.

Hamel says, “I see myself being an extra custodian. There’s a lot of disinfecting and cleaning.”

Teachers already wear many hats from educator to counselor to coach.

Hamel and Wellman are both soccer coaches as well.

They say to return safely to school, there will be an added workload and new roles to bear like nurse and enforcer.

“Teachers just always find a way to do more with less. It doesn’t always make it right or the best case scenario but one thing I know about teachers is we’re going to make it happen this year,” says Wellman.

And though they plan to “make it happen,” there are still many concerns.

Like extra lesson plans to fit an in-classroom and hybrid model.

”How am I going to find the time to provide the same quality of education that I’ve always done knowing that if I have two or three pods running simultaneously and some are in person, some are online, I can’t just simply swap out what I did the previous week for the next week because they’ve progressed as well. There’s only so many hours in a day. Something always has to give. I don’t want it to be the quality of the education I can give,” says Wellman.

Both educators worry about helping their students cope with the changes.

Hamel says he plans to open his ears and listen more and let his students know he hears their concerns.

“How do we tow that balance between physical safety comparative to students who need safe spaces, their mental health, the social well-being and development,” says Wellman.

Both men expressed concerns over students whose home lives aren’t the best and school is typically a source of escape and safety.

Hamel says he doesn’t have any immediate family that are in the high risk category, so he’s not as worried for his own health.

But he does worry about his colleagues who are in that high-risk category or those that have family who are.

Wellman is in that exact position. He says, “I’m definitely going to be take a lot of precautions to make sure I’m sanitized or not getting sick at school and bringing it back home because that is something that would just be heart wrenching for me that if I brought that home and gave it to my six-week old daughter or my 21 month old son.”

And for both, their own mental health is of course a worry.

“I know I’m going to get fatigued and I know there are going to be good days and bad days where I feel hey this is so validated and I’m on the front lines and there’s going to be other days where i’m going to be like this is just wearing me down so much and I’m beaten up,” says Wellman.

Both of these teachers say they will be back in their classrooms if that’s the scenario that exists.

“I know that teachers will always find a way and that we’ll always do something that meets student’s needs,” says Wellman.

Hamel says, “I feel like we’re not going to know if we succeed unless we try it and at the end of the day we just have to give it a shot.”

The department of education will share its color-coded system on school reopening classifications this Friday.

Red mean schools should pursue remote learning, yellow is the hybrid approach and green clears the way for back in the classroom instruction.

Copyright 2020 WABI. All rights reserved.

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