I have come to the conclusion that I am far too sensitive for Facebook. Sometimes it’s a passive-aggressive meme suggesting I am somehow weak for wearing a mask and fearing a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands. Other times it’s a direct comment indicating that the teachers union (of which I’m a part) is out for themselves and cares not for the social-emotional wellness of students, therefore preferring a remote start to the 2020 school year. No matter what it is, I take it way too seriously. And no one is happy. And it needs to stop. I have no control over what others post or comment, but I do have control over what I read and how I react.
This internal struggle actually began many years ago — in 2007, to be precise. I was a member of the first and only teachers union to break Massachusetts state law and go on strike when we could not reach an agreement with the school committee on terms for a new contract. Those few days on strike were some of the worst of my teaching career, and I actually became physically sick. I missed my students, I missed my classroom, and I missed feeling good about what I was doing.
What was worse than the strike, though, was reading what other people had to say about teachers — us in particular — online. I found myself agonizing over comments on online newspaper articles, where members of the community called out teachers for “having it easy” with so many months of vacation and telling them to “suck it up” and take a contract with more costly health insurance and no raises — after all, we did choose our profession, and we did so “for the children,” right?
I used to respond to those comments. So I suppose I have, in fact, grown a little, because I refuse to respond now. No one ever wins a war in the comments section. I do, however, continue to read the posts, the comments sections, and the memes, and I really need to stop. Like right now. Because no one is happy.
August was a particularly challenging month for me. My anxiety is heightened at the prospect of returning to school while managing my Type 1 diabetes, avoiding COVID-19, and relearning how to teach in a world that involves masks, sanitizers, and as little contact as possible with my students. After weeks of discussions, the school committee where I teach decided on a remote-to-hybrid model, where data would be assessed weekly and students would be moved into the classroom if and when COVID-19 cases seemed to remain low. In the community where I live, the school committee decided to start with a hybrid model because the cases here are pretty much non-existent, and there are fewer students to accommodate with more space. All over the country, schools are determining how to start based on the information they receive and the resources they have. And no one is happy.
The same parents who were singing the praises of teachers in March and April for stepping up and creating as much online content as possible, without any professional development on how to do so, are now cursing teachers and calling them lazy and selfish for wanting to ensure a safe learning environment in their classrooms this fall. And I just keep reading the comments, internalizing what people are saying, and feeling awful for wanting to keep myself (and my family) as safe as possible. I know not everyone has this ability. I know there are many parents who must return to work and therefore need schools to open and care for their children. And I don’t have an answer. I don’t know how to fix this. No matter the choice a district makes about learning this fall, people are unhappy. Unhappy parents. Unhappy students. Unhappy teachers. And when unhappy people post in the comments section, they are so very bold and so very brutal. Reading those posts and comments stings. No one is happy.
And here I am, reading Facebook throughout my day, becoming numb to the posts, the comments, the memes, and the insults, because that’s my defense system. But I don’t like that either. I don’t like being numb and I don’t like being unhappy. So, for the sake of my mental health, I have decided to take a break from the world of Facebook. I am not going to read posts about school or community or politics for at least a month. I am going to take a breather and retreat to the world of Instagram (I don’t think I can completely go off the grid, and Instagram feels a bit safer for me right now), where I can look at pictures and ignore the captions and comments. Where I can stare at the innocent faces of my friends’ dogs and cats and babies and post pictures of my own to share. And then, maybe, at least I will be happy.