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'I have had some tough days' | Texas teachers welcome possibility of relief during pandemic

The Texas Education Agency is exploring ways to make teaching in-person and at-home students at the same time easier.

HOUSTON — Board member Barbara Cargill spoke about what she’s heard from teachers during Wednesday's meeting of the Texas State Board of Education.

"They're, like, dying," Cargill said. "And so many of them are really thinking about leaving education. And it just breaks my heart because their gift is teaching.”

It’s a job veteran Chavez High School English teacher Coretta Mallet-Fontenot certainly takes to heart.

“I have had some tough days, I’ll be very honest about that,” Mallet-Fontenot said.

She said some of her colleagues thinking about calling it quits due to the pandemic. And she's among those weary from teaching in-person and at-home students simultaneously.

"But I try to show up, you know, in solidarity with the other employees who have to be here," she said. "And, you know, trying to do the best I can to be supportive of my students.”

She said Chavez created a support service to help teachers cope and some districts have added in-service days. But the impact of this school year is increasingly evident.

"You’re trying to do it all at the same time and it can be a bit much,” Mallet-Fontenot said.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath told the state board that the TEA is exploring ways to try and help districts improve things.

"What I think we need to concentrate on most is giving teachers the gift of time because that’s what they lack,” Morath said.

There are basically four teaching models amid COVID-19:

  1. Concurrent is instructing on-campus and virtual students at the same time, which is used by most districts.
  2. Split scheduling is where teachers divide their days between the two groups.
  3. Split staffing is where teachers teach one or the other group exclusively.
  4. Virtual schools operate independently from what’s happening on-campus.

"We’re not accustomed to making significant operational changes in the middle of a school year,” Morath said.

Mallet-Fontenot believes something needs to give. But she said she isn’t confident changes will happen quickly, if at all.

"You know, we’re told one thing one day and then we turn on the five o’clock news and there’s a whole different announcement,” Mallet-Fontenot said.