Letter: The faculty of education returning to in-person is against its own values

Dear Dr. Jan Hare, Dr. Marianne MacTavish and the rest of the UBC Teacher Education Office,

I am a student in the secondary cohort of the Bachelor of Education program. I understand that there is tremendous pressure placed by the various regulatory branches, UBC bureaucracy and the public health infrastructure of British Columbia to resume in-person learning as of February 7th. On behalf of some of my colleagues and peers, I would like to express that this move is incorrect and will negatively impact students. It also goes against the values of empathy and compassion as communicated to us in the teacher education program.

For us in the BEd program, the term ends on Friday, February 18. This effectively means that we will have fewer than 10 days of in-person instruction before we go on our practicum. In that time we will attend lectures with 200 of our fellow students, who have commuted to campus from a variety of locations, which creates an extremely high risk of exposure.

There is no vaccine requirement to attend classes at UBC. There is almost no testing on campus and exceptionally limited testing available to the general public. There is no way to know if we are positive beyond symptoms, meaning that we may spread COVID-19 to our friends and colleagues as well as UBC staff and faculty.

This means that we will possibly have COVID prior to our practicum, and statistically speaking, some of us will have long COVID. This will impact our ability to complete our practicum to our full potential. Getting sick will also impact our ability to prepare and learn. This will add an extra stressor to an already insanely stressful time for education students.

While we are compelled to complete our practicum — with all the associated risks — to receive a comprehensive education and be best prepared for our future students, the faculty of education has a choice now to keep us safer for an extra week.

Beyond this, many of us live with our parents, our children and other clinically vulnerable individuals. Many of us have resigned to being exposed and contracting the virus while on our practicum given the dearth of safety protocols in the public school system to answer the new demands of the omicron variant. Based on UBC’s behaviour and the communication from our professors, there is also a lack of adequate safety procedures in place on campus as well.

Many students also suffer from health issues that could be made worse, or could make them sicker than their other peers. These students will face added issues with the return to campus.

We as teachers must exercise empathy and compassion. The teacher education curriculum asserts that these are necessary qualities of good teachers, yet we are not seeing these same values being exemplified by the Teacher Education Office with regard to in-person learning during the pandemic.

Please do not put us at risk. Please do not put our parents, partners, children and other loved ones at risk. By Allowing us to remain online for the remaining 11 days of our semester you can imbue an extra sense of safety and help reduce student stress and improve student outcomes.

Sam Klein-Laufer is a Bachelor of Education student at UBC.

Correction: Faculty Dean Jan Hare's name was spelled incorrectly. This has been remedied.