Our Teachers & Students Are Important, But Apparently Not As Much As Pro Athletes


Our Teachers & Students Are Important, But Apparently Not As Much As Pro Athletes

“Play ball!”

Millions of sports-starved fans all over America have been clamoring to hear those words and in just a few short weeks, most major sports organizations will be back in business including MLB, MLS, NASCAR, the WNBA, the PGA Tour and the National Women’s Soccer League, with the NFL season looming in September. And while the mood surrounding those re-starts is celebratory, owners and league officials are sparing no expense to make sure their most valuable commodities (the athletes) are being kept safe and secure.

The NBA and NHL, for example, have created “bubbles” where all the teams will live, practice and play. All the players entering the bubble are being quarantined and won’t be allowed to leave short of extenuating circumstances. Life inside the bubble will consist of daily tests and screenings and anyone who tests positive will be separated from everyone else until given the all-clear. If any player develops serious symptoms there will be teams of doctors and nurses on hand to deliver the best medical care possible.

“Back to school!”

Ironically enough, as sports get ready to make their return into America’s way of life, so does education. School districts have been spending months trying to come up with a plan that allows for schools to reopen safely, a task that’s proven to be as hard as hitting a 102-mph fastball with a plastic fork.

In May, the CDC laid out its guidelines for reopening schools which included common-sense practices such as wearing masks, increased use of hand washing and sanitizing stations, keeping everyone socially distanced, and keeping schools fully stocked with cleaning supplies. Practices that every other profession has been able to implement seamlessly. Yet, in the world of education, many of these steps were seen as impossible to enforce and unrealistic, and no one has put forth any plan that would include required COVID-19 tests for students, teachers or staff members. In fact, the CDC itself recently advised against universal testing of students and staff in schools.

Remember back in April when we all said that maybe it was time we started treating teachers like heroes, the way we do celebrities and pro athletes? Now, 3 months later athletes are getting DAILY screenings and teachers are being told that testing in schools isn’t even recommended, much less required.

Now with time ticking down to the scheduled start of most school years, and COVID-19 cases on the rise in many states, teachers are asking questions and not getting many answers. A recent survey from the American Federation of Teachers revealed that less than 20% of teachers supported reopening schools for face to face instruction. And while many teachers have voiced concerns about going back into the classroom, no one has laid out ground rules for teachers that do decide to stay home.

  • Will teachers who refuse to go back into classrooms lose their jobs?
  • Will teachers use up their sick or personal days if they chose to stay home?
  • What happens if a student tests positive? Will everyone that child came in contact with be forced to quarantine at home?
  • What about teachers who test positive? Will they be allowed to quarantine at home? Will they still be required to teach from home while quarantining?

These are questions that no one has any answers for yet, and some schools are one month from reopening.

Professional athletes, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about these things. All of the major sports leagues starting up this month are operating under basically the same rules: If you have a pre-existing medical condition you can sit out the entire season and still get paid. If you’re healthy and you choose to sit out, you won’t get paid but your position with the team will remain secure. Several top athletes have already said they plan to sit out the season because the risk is too great.

“I have a 3-week-old baby… My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”

-Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals First Baseman

“I can’t imagine making any decision that might put my family’s health and well-being at even the slightest risk.”

-Avery Bradley, Los Angeles Lakers Guard

Of course, as you already may have noticed, the difference between a professional athlete and a teacher is pretty staggering. Ryan Zimmerman has made over $130-million in his career, not including endorsement deals. Avery Bradley has earned over $75-million. Sitting out for a year is a little easier when your bank account has lots of zeros at the end of it. Meanwhile, teachers, many of whom work multiple side-jobs just to make ends meet, don’t even know if they’ll be allowed to sit this one out and still keep their position. Most educators don’t even have a choice because going back into the classroom is the only way they’ll get paid.

At the end of the day, we’re looking at two very different professions with some similarities. Both teachers and professional athletes have been told that going back to work would be good for the country and good for the economy. It’s just that those in charge of professional athletes seem to actually be concerned for their health and safety, and the last time I checked no teacher had a sponsorship deal with a sneaker company to fall back on.

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Our Teachers & Students Are Important, But Apparently Not As Much As Pro Athletes

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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