Updated: May 8, 2020
Happy Friday Beautiful People! We made it through another week; kudos to all of you, especially our teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.
This blog is dedicated to all teachers, in particular the teachers and leadership team at JHS 291 Roland Hayes School, in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.
There was a time when we didn't think much of teachers unless it was due to a phone call discussing poor behavior, work not handed in, or having to meet at parent-teacher conferences. They taught math, science, social studies, physical education, and ELA behind closed doors in their classroom. For us, their work felt normal and necessary; we knew many of them were underpaid and underappreciated. Strikes that shut down a number of schools in Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles did generate a level of support and to some extent highlighted the struggles teachers go through-this made limited media headlines..until a force called COVID-19 came in and to put it frankly, SHUT SHIT DOWN!
Our schools serve about 55 million students closed, leaving parents to oversee the academic work of their children at home. Through this pandemic, millions of families realized that teachers are not convenient but essential. The view of our teachers right now is up there with our health care workers, no, they are not in the hospitals treating patients; they are at a different forefront, working to ensure that our children are academically supported, that they remain encouraged in a time of uncertainty and sweeping change.
I would be remiss if I did not point out the challenges being faced. Some educators have become less visible and there are families who have expressed frustration by the lack of planning or too many expectations. On the other hand, millions of educators have risen above what they were trained to do, throwing themselves not only into online teaching with virtually no preparation but also into other roles: tech support, video editor, counselor, social worker, referral giver, etc...
With so much at stake in the aftermath of this crisis, this can be an opportunity to turn that appreciation into the fuel that will finally restore the prestige of the teaching profession and improve teachers’ working conditions.
Overnight, the pandemic imposed a radical switch to remote teaching and learning that many hoped would be temporary. We soon learned, however, the school closings would last indefinitely as the country coped with the most severe worldwide public health crisis of our lifetimes complete with dramatic economic consequences.
With support from parents and communities, teachers and students are carrying on with their respective endeavors as well as they can. In watching them, we’re all reminded of what learning and teaching entail: the mysteries embedded in each of the subjects, the lectures, the assignments, the projects, the questions, among so many others. But we’ve also realized that teaching goes beyond these day-in-and-day-out activities; The pandemic has opened many eyes to the role that teachers play as part of the basic fabric of the safety net—through the provision of school-based supports like meals, health clinics, counseling, and even housing.
This crisis, however, may provide a serious opportunity to bridge the gap between the strong appreciation, in theory, and the challenging working conditions for teachers, in practice. Experience tells us that teachers will be there to ensure that students are taught and schools reopen, which is essential to allow for an economic recovery. Policymakers and educational leaders will need to work to provide teachers with the working conditions and resources they need to fulfill their important mission as educators, which will certainly have a special meaning in the aftermath of the pandemic. This may be a unique occasion to act on this newfound appreciation for teachers to grant them more standing status at the table discussing education, working conditions, and their own role in the epidemic’s aftermath.
You are appreciated.
"Looking back and be grateful, look ahead and be hopeful, look around and be helpful"