‘I’m Only 1 Person’: Teachers Feel Torn Between Their Students And Their Own Kids

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Patricia Stamper, with her 5-year-old son, works with children who have cognitive and physical disabilities at an elementary school in Washington, D.C.

Jared Soares for NPR


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Jared Soares for NPR

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Stamper with her husband, Pete, and two sons at their home in Washington, D.C.

Jared Soares for NPR


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Patricia Stamper helps her eldest son with schoolwork at their home.

Jared Soares for NPR


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Patricia Stamper holds her younger son, 1, at their home.

Jared Soares for NPR


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Jared Soares for NPR

Patricia Stamper holds her younger son, 1, at their home.

Jared Soares for NPR

Adding to personal and professional struggles, teachers told us they’re also feeling affected by public frustration and complaints about teachers.

«People are vilifying educators,» says Heather Cline, who teaches high school Spanish in Seattle and is the mother of a 6-year-old who was adopted from Azerbaijan and is an English-language learner. «I’m beyond frustrated and overwhelmed, and I don’t feel as if my district is supporting us educators nearly enough.»

Melanie Goldberg in Brooklyn agrees: «Even though I have friends who know that I’m a teacher, I still end up hearing the negative teacher talk a lot.»

She says some more privileged families have a «client» mentality, expecting personalized service from their children’s teachers. «It’s uninformed, and it’s pretty mean, even though they know personally for me how much of a struggle it is or how unrealistic it would be for them to totally revamp their professional lives with no support.»

Jessica, whose last name we’re not using to protect her family’s privacy, summed up the uncertainty that teachers who are parents are feeling, twice over, right now. «The best way I can describe the entirety of this experience is just a giant mental seesaw.»

Jessica is a math and reading intervention teacher who lives on a farm in rural Minnesota. She says she herself and her older daughter are on the autism spectrum, while her younger daughter has a disorder with some psychiatric symptoms called PANDAS.

Jessica has been going back and forth with her district about whether she’ll be allowed an accommodation to teach from home — and going back and forth with herself about whether she should take one:

«One minute you’re like: Yup, we’re in person. I can do this. You know, it’s not ethical for me to, like, desert my students and be unwilling to do something that’s scary and makes me anxious because I’m selfish and I just don’t feel like it. So I’m going to suck it up and do it. … And the next minute, I see that we added seven cases in our county today, and I feel like, oh, my God, everybody’s going to die!»

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