Teachers...Bringing Out The Best
Please give me a moment of your time to convey why teachers are amazing people. I hope this blog will compel you to share with others so we can spread gratitude for our teachers!
When school buildings across the country closed their doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many teachers were instructed to “pivot.” With almost no guidance, teachers were told to exit their classrooms, grab what they can carry, and reimagine and relocate school to their homes. They never had a chance to explain things face to face to their students. Never got to hug their students one last time. No good-byes or assessing if their students were okay. Go home, find a place where no one can see your dirty laundry or the piles of dishes in the sink, where the lighting is good and the internet signal is strong and with little or no training become an expert on using Zoom, Google Classroom or some other video-calling mechanism. On your mark, get set...pivot.
And they did. Teachers adapted with flair, grace, and genuine love for their students. They were sent into war with squirt guns, but they conquered the “pivot” and rose from the ashes as superheroes. This adaptation has had its humorous moments. I was recently babysitting my friend’s 6-year-old daughter, Whitney. We were playing Barbies and pretending to be on a camping trip. All the Barbies were gathered around the fire pit enjoying each other and nature when Whitney picked up the “mom” Barbie and walked her to the Barbie RV. “Where is she going?” I asked. “She has a Zoom call.”
Another teacher shared that when she praised one of her fourth-grade students for completing both assignments, he replied, “Oh, I guess my mom did that one for me too😁”
From another teacher…”Today one of my 4th-grade students renamed himself ‘reconnecting’ on our Zoom call and pretended that he was having internet issues to avoid participating in the lesson.”
And my sister recently printed t-shirts for her high schoolers with the insignia Zoom University and “Can you hear me?” in Latin.
Educators are essential to the survival of our nation.
Teachers modeled the art of adaptation; the one consistent trait that Covid has required of all of us. Educators are essential to the survival of our nation and are some of the most underpaid and unsupported members of our communities, yet they persevere, even in a pandemic.
Today educators are beginning to decide what school will look like for fall. Do we stay virtual? Return face to face? Become hybrid? I can only imagine the variables to consider: high-risk groups, safety regarding transmission, mental and emotional well-being, economics, parental needs, impact on the dynamic of the family. The list goes on and cannot possibly please all parties involved.
Honestly, I do not know the ideal plan (imagine if I did!) I’m not a teacher, however, I recognize that many teachers are not being included in this discussion. How does that make sense? The soldiers in the trenches have no voice? A teacher offered, “I felt abandoned and invisible through the entire process.”
Good teachers are priceless.
Growing up I had a few remarkable teachers myself. My high school English/drama teacher, Mrs. Furtaw (today Kooiman), told me in front of the entire class that I had a unique voice. Today I’m a professional speaker. Ha! Imagine that. Mrs. Furtaw was an encourager, and I still smile when I think of her. She made a difference in my life. My sister and many of my friends are teachers. I see firsthand the hours they spend pouring into their students. The late nights, the use of their own money, the excitement they have over a new lesson or project. The hugs, smiles, advice, and attention they dispense freely and frequently. Teachers give and lead with their hearts and soul. (Mrs. Furtaw from back in the day.)
Throughout this pandemic, I decided to invite people on a “virtual lunch date.” Just a chance to connect, to check in with people, and hopefully to brighten someone’s day. During these lunches with my friends, several of whom are teachers, I noticed a recurring theme; most all talked about missing their students. They were sincerely worried about their well-being. In the course of one virtual lunch my friend, Roberta, took a call from a student who was concerned about a social media post that she felt was hurtful. Roberta immediately scheduled a call with a colleague who works in social media safety. Roberta jumped into action. This innate and immediate “above and beyond” reaction was not shocking or unusual for a teacher. It’s just what they do.
Parents rose beautifully to this challenge as well, stepping into their new role as “teacher.” The stay-at-home order has been an eye-opener for many parents who were suddenly and fully thrown into homeschooling their kids. I am sure many reluctantly concluded, “I don’t really like my own kids.” I say that with a smile and a bit of truth. Keeping your kids seated (or at least in the room), focused, engaged, and refraining from hurting one another was a challenge. Be honest, how many of you sent your kids to recess from nine to noon? Parents can more readily admit that teaching is one tough and thankless profession. What they do day in and day out is nothing short of amazing. I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me chuckle, “You’re right. My child isn’t a star student.” Even though parents may concede that teaching your own kids is hard, you stepped up and deserve accolades too.
At this time one year ago..teachers were cleaning and organizing classrooms, planning bulletin boards, and field trips, tidying up lesson plans, dreaming about new resources, and growing genuinely excited to see their students.
At this time one year ago... parents were trailing their children at the local superstore as they canvassed the aisles, checking off their supply list, excited to pack their bags and prepare to see friends and faculty. Parents were also organizing carpools, scheduling music lessons and athletic practices, and looking for ways to volunteer or plugin.
At this time this year, we are checking the news for weekly updates on opening up and using phrases like “in these times of uncertainty” and “we are all in this together”. A great deal has changed but what has not changed is how our teachers feel. They were stressed out and burning out before the pandemic. Now they are managing their own families at home and adapting to new technology.
A recent study by Berkeley found that before the pandemic, teachers felt frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed and tired. These emotions were related to anxiety regarding meeting students’ needs, high stakes testing, an ever-changing curriculum and achieving a work/life balance. And the same survey concludes that emotions matter.
Emotions matter for attention, memory and learning. Positive emotions promote learning for both student and teacher.
Emotions matter for decision making. When we are stressed, the decision making part of our brain can be “hijacked.” This applies to students and teachers.
Emotions matter for relationships. Frustrated or stressed teachers can alienate students and jeopardize their sense of safety.
The essential question becomes, “how do we want our teachers to feel? And how can we support
them to experience those feelings?” As parents and taxpayers, we can ask our school administrators what they are doing to emotionally support our teachers and what we can do as a community. It’s not enough to just hope for the best. Our schools must bring out the best in our teachers.
COVID 19 has definitely “taken” from all of us. Loss of life, income, and security being the greatest costs. Loss of freedom and changes to routines can rock our comfortable, scheduled, familiar life. But Covid-19 can also “give.” We should emerge from the Covid cloud better, with a deeper appreciation of employment, family, health, and the amazing education afforded to our children. And, hopefully, a new appreciation for those that bring out the best in all of us.
Kudos to the TEAM.
As I search for lessons learned from this pandemic, of which there is no shortage, perhaps one of the most profound is how the education of our children is a team effort with teachers serving as the captains. Please share this blog. Share it with your favorite teacher or colleague. Please comment, perhaps share a story about how a teacher impacted you. To every teacher...THANK YOU! The work you do 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, 366 days a year, makes all other occupations possible.