What Matters: I asked for hate mail from teachers and this is what I got

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A lot of teachers and their families took me up on it and sent in some thoughtful notes.

Here’s what they said.

I was kind of flip in asking them to send in hate mail and, while one person told me to “go to hell you damn fool,” several people made a point to say what they were writing was not “hate mail.”

Barbara Cole, a nurse who wrote in saying health care workers have a much different responsibility than teachers, said her message was “not hate mail! We haven’t the time for that. Wear the mask.”

Schools are not like hospitals

A woman who described herself as an essential worker in a hospital said there’s a big difference between a school and a hospital.

Please do not “shame” the teachers.

As an essential worker in a hospital … I see where you are going with your argument.

But, the health care arena is totally different from school. We do NOT encounter large groups of patients as these teachers will be encountering large groups of children in class.

Kelly Crite is a retired junior kindergarten director:

I wish you would’ve highighted the fact that schools do have a safe option, albeit imperfect. Virtual learning is available for students and it is obviously the safer option. This type of learning also stops the spread of the virus, which in my humble opinion is the current priority goal.

Nurses and doctors cannot “virtually” treat the sickest patients. Walmart employees cannot “virtually” restock shelves or sanitize stores.

Another woman said school is not essential to life in the way health care and groceries are, and that people should patiently wait a few months.

School isn’t essential in a life or death situation, which we ARE in. To demand teachers risk their lives because “it’s time” and because others are truly essential to LIFE, is wrong. We will need all these teachers to be alive and well and ready to do everything for our kids, WHEN IT IT SAFE FOR THEM AND THE STUDENTS!

There are plenty of Americans who would debate her on this point.

Schools are not like grocery stores

This is from a man who wrote in from north of Atlanta and asked not to be identified:

The analogy of teachers vs. grocery store workers is also flawed — stocking shelves and moving people through a register line one by one is hardly the same as moving 1,000 children through a crowded hallway or being forced into a room with 30 of their germy little hands, noses and mouths. Teachers are generally older and have greater health issues than other essential services professions.

I’m a teacher, and my district is engaged in a group hallucination right now, fantasizing that we can safely cram thousands teenagers into a building where they will all social distance, wash their hands and wear masks. As we’ve already seen in dozens of photos from around the country just in the past week, it ain’t happening. I for one will not be singing the school fight song with my last, wheezing breaths, and if politicians won’t gather for their conventions in two-to-three weeks, why should I gather for politicians’ children’s Covid parties?

Renee Longshore also equated the story with teacher shaming.

Teachers are highly trained professionals whose job is to help educate the next generation, and the next after that. They are (for the most part) selfless and giving more to the job than they ever get paid for. But using your article to shame us into stepping into a classroom (aka poorly ventilated and highly saturated germ factory) in the middle of a pandemic (when 1-2% of those infected will die), so parents can go back to work, is irresponsible.

What happens when a vaccine comes out and it is safer to start our economy back up again? Who will educate (or babysit) the students then? I am sure no one will be looking to enter a profession where you have to give of yourself so fully to only get a parent’s (and journalist’s) chastisement in response.

Breathing air from 150 different homes

Greg Smith is a pastor and former teacher in Gwinnett County, Georgia. His wife is a teacher still:

My wife and I are both over 60. I have a compromised health problem. In a normal time she sees up to 150 different students per day in her classroom. To put it bluntly, she is breathing the air from 150 different homes, without knowing who is Covid-positive but asymptomatic. As of this morning (yes, I watched CNN) your network reported over 158,000 people in this country have died with this virus. Neither my wife or I want to become one of your statistics.

So, why are you advocating putting children, teachers, families and entire communities at further risk? Instead, use your national platform to advocate that schools provide for a safe environment. Inform people of what it takes to protect children, teachers and staff before the students arrive. Advocate that our federal, state, and local governments invest the funding so our schools can create a safe environment. That is the best way to get children back into school and their parents back on the job.

Seriously, safety must come first!

Teachers want to teach

Janet Lake works at a charter high school in New York and she’s ready to take class outside.

I will teach American history under a tree if I have to. Wearing gloves, winter coat and scarf. Government just needs to make sure all students have extra winter gear and enough nurses. And a bag lunch. Let’s go.

A lot of people see the need for creative solutions. One man said he’s developing a contraption (it sounds sort of like an airport metal detector) that would take kids’ temperature as they walk in the building and also douse them in a “concentrated disinfecting fog.”

Classrooms are like sardine cans

Sheryl Wright is a fourth grade teacher in Merced, California, and she’s taking early retirement. Her husband died from cancer nine years ago and she doesn’t want her children to lose another parent.

I teach in a sardine can, otherwise known as a portable.

There is no running water or sink in my classroom. The ventilation is of poor quality. There is a door and two windows (which I’ve never opened before.)

I live in a part of California that maintains 90-100 degree temperatures through September, so it is unlikely that the windows would be open during these months.

Our custodians have removed any tables in the room to accommodate the mandated 3-foot distance between desks. (Please note that the distance decreased from 6 feet to 3 feet.)

In a grocery store or other public setting, we need to stand 6 feet apart to maintain safety.

However, in the sardine can of a classroom I will have 25-32 kids sitting ALL DAY in isolated desks in rows that extend the width of my room at only 3 feet apart, breathing the poorly ventilated air conditioned air for 6-7 hours daily.

It’s not just teachers we’re talking about

A woman from Ohio wrote:

I am not a teacher. I am a public high school administrative and guidance secretary. And I have been reporting every day to work. Many nights and weekends too. Along with custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

I had to pick up the slack and work as the middleman so to speak between teachers and students who were able to work from home. I was the one students and parents relied on to be available and work at any given time to get academic needs organized and distributed, even making home deliveries. While teachers sat at home. I made calls and met students/parents at any time on any day. While teachers worked from home, I had to fix, reorganize and,for some teachers, do their jobs that they “didn’t feel comfortable or safe” doing, so they could stay home …

Please do us some justice and quit referring to just teachers for school openings. Please cover us all and replace teachers with school staff!

There are still haters

Some people’s comments were more about spelling and style.

One person noted that I misspelled a word in the email version of this newsletter.

“Misogynist is spelled misoginyst,” she said, and adding: “For shame!”

Indeed. (Editor’s note: Sorry about that, our bad.)

Another woman said I should not use the word “literally” as a device, as I did when I said “the sky is literally falling.”

“I enjoy your newsletter but was disappointed when I read ‘the sky is literally falling’ on the school children. Don’t use literally when something is not literal. It like saying a false fact.”

She’s right, obviously. I’ll do better.

Covid-19’s impact on the election

Join us for a discussion about the impact of Covid-19 on the 2020 US election.

Streaming on cnn.com/what-matters-live | August 13, 2020, 8:00 p.m. ET

What are we doing here?

We’re trying to connect the dots at a time of political, cultural and economic upheaval.



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