Instruction & Curriculum

[Opinion] At Least I Didn’t Spill the Coffee: How Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Address to Educators Missed the Mark

The morning started well enough. One fried egg in coconut oil, a cup of hot Café Bustelo, and an open laptop. I was ready to make significant headway on my to-do list and get ahead of the work that quickly mounts when postponed.
It was while plowing through my tasks that I saw Vice President Pence and Secretary DeVos address our nation about reopening schools. I was excited to hear the guidance intended to ensure the safety of every American student AND teacher.
To say I was disappointed would be a lie.
I was not disappointed. I was outraged.
I almost spilled my coffee, but Café Bustelo really is too good to waste.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, teachers have begged for support, reassurance, and guidance from Secretary DeVos. Click To Tweet
Teachers wanted support with transitioning from face to face instruction to remote learning. They wanted reassurance that every learner would have access to resources and connectivity. They also wanted guidance on what to do to ensure that their children would learn and learn in a manner that was just as effective as face to face instruction during the pandemic.
During this week’s press conference and week of “Reopening Schools” push, our teachers did not receive any of the aforementioned.
Instead of support, DeVos gave an admonishment proclaiming that too many educators gave up on teaching their students. Instead of guidance, DeVos gave praise to private and charter schools while shaming the efforts of many teachers. Instead of reassurance, DeVos gave fear and increased alarm as COVID-19 cases have climbed above the 3 million mark in the United States.
Secretary DeVos started her speech by rightfully praising parents who “have worn multiple hats” and called them “our unsung heroes.” While this is true, I was surprised that she failed to specifically recognize the American teacher force who transitioned at a moment’s notice and did not miss a beat to ensure a successful end to the 2020 school year.
An advocate of private and charter schools, and vocal critic of the public education she oversees, DeVos chose to recognize Harlem’s Success Academy and the International Leadership Academy in Texas by name. She praised them, along with Miami-Dade, for doing what almost every American public school did this year: moving to distance learning in one week, remotely teaching new material, and differentiating instruction for students with learning needs and language differences.
What these schools did was not necessarily exemplary. It was expected. It was their job and it was the job that we all did to meet the needs of our students.
Devos continued.
She admonished the majority of teachers and said both she and “state school leaders were disappointed.” She claimed many teachers “did not figure out how to serve their students. Too many just gave up.” She shared alleged statistics that of all teachers, “only 12% across the board found any real curriculum or instructional program” to meet their students learning needs.
I sat on my couch, coffee in hand, mouth wide-open, outraged.
Secretary DeVos could not have selected a worst time to emerge from her Michigan mansion and face the nation. Click To Tweet
Teachers are concerned about a forced, premature return to face to face instruction. They are worried about their students’ welfare and the well-being of their own families. Today would have been an ideal opportunity for Secretary DeVos to praise our educators and to thank them for their service and national leadership during a time of crisis.
Instead, she used this moment to insult our profession and quicken my heart rate.
At least my coffee wasn’t spilled.


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