For months, debates have raged on regarding school re-opening plans. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and a strong one at that.
The implications of the decisions are astonishingly profound. Administrators and school board officials (the school board being a volunteer position, I must add) are tasked with impossible, no-win decision making, trying to please community members while also remembering their number one priority is to provide a safe and effective learning environment for children. Most debates I have witnessed are not constructive. In fact, they are mean-spirited. They are imploring schools, more so teachers, to be the safety net of our society, as fully open schools are the only way to resume productive work schedules and a normal way of life.
I have read comments such as “teachers need to suck it up, just like other front-line workers and get back in the classroom” and “if they don’t want to go back in person, then they should find another career.” Ignorant and flippant remarks such as these make my blood boil. My husband and I were both raised by teachers, so we understand the sacrifices they make to educate our society. We also know how much heart and soul they pour into each child, hoping to leave a life-long positive imprint on them. It is shortsighted to demand teachers save us, that they lift the heavy loads, without remembering they too have families, lives, and livelihoods to protect.
So teachers, please know this: We see you.
2020 has commanded much more than your job descriptions should entail. Our country is limping along, attempting to move forward, and you, teachers, are proving to be the captains of the ship. A position you should not have to hold.
Despite a lack of appropriate compensation and ample protective equipment you have returned to teaching, knowing your health could be at risk. You have always been willing to take a bullet for our children should the horrific need arise, but never did you suspect you might also have to contract a preventable, yet potentially deadly disease, as well. Leaving behind your own families, you are being forced to choose between the kids you love at home and the kids you love at school. It is a choice you should not have to make.
You have been thrown in to a completely new way of living, not only in your own home, but also in your career. We see you adapting to a different way of connecting to students, using technology as a way to show you care rather than a hug or high-five. It is not ideal, and yet, somehow, the students still feel your love and compassion.
When the computer just is not enough, we notice your innovative ways of nurturing their development. Everything is new and sometimes hard, and yet your students would never know.
Your classrooms do not and cannot look the same. Smiles are covered with fabric, desks are protected with plastic, and yet everywhere the children look, they see fun and creativity. A lack of suitable resources has never stopped you, and especially not this year.
After a spring semester of at-home learning and teaching, most parents now understand what you do involves a lot of experience, knowledge, and quite frankly, magic. We see you implementing dynamic, fun and hands-on experiments even when the circumstances are not easy or ideal. The challenges are plentiful, but you make sure every student is heard and is given the chance to succeed.
You are exhibiting to our children the power of resiliency and continue to be their safe harbors. Most weeks you will see our children more hours of the day than your own families. You are often called upon to be a nurse, a counselor, a friend, and a mentor. And we know you will gladly accept any and all of those roles because you deeply care about your students’ well being. The burdens you carry are heavy.
Teachers can do anything.
I promise to do my part in making sure next school year is different, for all of us, but especially for you.