Recently, the alarming numbers of Georgia educators passing away due to COVID-19 is not only alarming but traumatizing.
In the State of Georgia’s largest and most diverse school district, Gwinnett County Public Schools, the promises of equity, empowering and protecting all students just simply aren’t being lived up too.
After the deaths of numerous teachers and educators in Georgia from COVID-19, a female teacher of color was forced to leave her post mid year in Gwinnett.
She shared her open letter with EdLanta to bring awareness to what’s truly happening to teachers of color in public schools during the pandemic.
An Open Letter from a Former GCPS Employee
When I first began teaching in Gwinnett County, I was asked what I believed to be the “Promise of Gwinnett.” I responded that I believed that promise to be the empowerment of young people and the encouragement of independent and critical thinkers.
Since then, I have found it increasingly difficult to fulfill that promise. It feels monumentally paradoxical to do so when teachers have been chastised and gaslighted for trying to model these very ideals.
I understand the various arguments from both sides of the digital learning debate. The pandemic has presented countless challenges for everyone.
As a parent who had to care for their child through remote learning, I empathize with parents’ frustrations.
Conversely, I have seen the impact that COVID has had on in-person learning as well as the impact that in-person learning has had on COVID cases in our county, which has the highest infection rates in the state.
While I support the choice that parents have been given regarding their children’s learning, I am angry that I was never given that choice. When my colleagues and I reached out to the county to voice our concerns over returning to work in person for various personal reasons, we were denied the courtesy of consideration.
Then, when employees continued to speak out throughout the year in protest, we have been treated as expendable and villainized for resisting.
Throughout all of this, we have continued to do our best for our students. Although every teacher I know is working harder than ever, we are constantly told that we need to do better and do more.
We have seen our colleagues get sick and even perish from the virus, but our plight has not been acknowledged. And when we try to hold space to work through this trauma with our students, we are criticized for being too controversial.
But pushing through as though nothing is wrong is ultimately harmful to our students.
It is particularly harmful to our black and brown students, who are disproportionately impacted by this deadly pandemic.
Therefore, I have made the difficult decision to leave my position mid-year. I am unable to sleep at night thinking of the injustice that I am perpetuating.
Though I am grappling with guilt, I refuse to model the normalization of such treatment. I respect myself and the example that I set for my students too much. I also acknowledge the privilege that I have to be able to make this decision at this time.
Many people rely on the income from this job to support their families and are unable to secure a way out.
Do not allow these people to become martyrs for something that is preventable by those in charge.
Finally, I want my students to know that I have nothing but love for you. You have consistently been the best part of this job, and my heart is broken that we are here now.
Nevertheless, I am inspired by all of you and know that you have the power to change the world. I implore you to use your powers for good.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.