Opinion: The insulting hybrid model

Up until a couple weeks ago, I was a waitress and barista at a local cafe where tips were accepted. Most people were kind, tipping generously. But occasionally, a customer would leave a poor tip, 0.37 cents on a $20 ticket.

Receiving that kind of tip would punch me in the gut worse than no tip at all (you can pretend they forgot or made a mistake). But a low tip is deliberate: it’s an insult. I can see someone’s face laughing at me as they walk out, imagining my impending reaction.

That’s what OPRF’s hybrid learning plan is. It’s an insult; a gut-punch; a pocket of change thrown on a dirty table left for me to mop up.

I can try to justify it in my head, as I did with poor tippers:

Maybe they do not understand how little I’m getting, or how badly I need this (I am just a teenager, after all), or maybe, worst of all, I did not deserve it.

If you count it up, students who opt-in will each get roughly 16 days of in-person learning. Or eight full days, since each day is a half day.

Between March 13, 2020, and the day I graduate, I will have spent eight full days in our school building.

I do not get to spend my last six months in Oak Park with my peers. I do not get a normal prom or graduation. The most time I get to spend with my friends is an occasional walk around town, and now we have to drudge through a foot-and-a-half of snow.

I have done three days in person so far. By the time I get used to being there or remember my way around the school, my cohort’s rotation is over and I have to wait 6 school days to return.

In-person teachers are struggling to balance between giving equitable attention to in-person and remote students. Some teachers can not return to school and students have no gain by returning to school.

I get angry a lot now, which is new to me. I get angry at OPRF, then at the federal government, then at the world.

The pandemic is not OPRF’s fault. But I feel like getting scraps just reminds me how little I have. It’s hard to halfway return to school.

Subsequently, I feel guilt for feeling this loss. Over 500,000 American lives have been cut short. That’s countless years of life. And I can not suck it up to tolerate losing just one. But I have to let myself grieve my own loss. If I wait, it will only manifest into something worse than grief.

There is nothing for me to gain by yelling at the customer; they do not understand (or do not care) that I am getting paid under $5 an hour and am depending on their tip to fill the gap. The solutions to these problems are above my pay grade.

It feels like we are getting cents on what was supposed to be a dollar. I can not stop thinking about how good getting the whole dollar would feel. But nevertheless, I will still push them in my hand, count them up, and savor them.