This summer, I wrote about the crisis of education and how educators everywhere were feeling. I still can’t believe the number of teachers who reached out to me or shared my post and said that they were feeling the exact same way as me. Teachers from all around the country. Well, I wanted to reflect on how the start of the year has gone for us educators.
Sacrificing our teachers
Even with Covid cases surging across our countries, there is still a debate going on about opening schools full-time. In Massachusetts, it’s illegal to have a gathering of more than 10 people insides, yet the governor wants schools to be 100% open full time. Make that make sense to me, please. The CDC quietly writes that in-person learning is now considered high-risk activity, and yet schools still don’t have the proper protections in place for staff and students.
Even with schools that have the means to provide the proper precautions, the decisions were still being made well into the school year, that no one even knows that rules and regulations are. Teachers aren’t being told when a student in their class has Covid, because their public health departments don’t deem them “close contacts”. Teachers are being told to keep working, despite concerns of coming in contact with someone with Covid. Parents are sending their children to school, despite knowing they have Covid or someone in their household has Covid or that they exercised in reckless activities like a homecoming party.
Teachers knew this would happen. Teachers spoke up. And no one listened. And now, we are paying the price. Teachers are getting Covid. Teachers are dying. And the media is happy to sacrifice our teachers for feel-good stories. A teacher teaching from her hospital bed to keep children from falling behind is not a feel-good moment. Teachers are not saints or a martyers. We are human beings and no one should be expected to work from their hospital bed. That is a cry for help – a cry that our education system has failed students and educators everywhere.
Teachers are working harder than they ever had. Veteran teachers are breaking under the pressure. Teachers are scotch taping our days together and hoping the tape stays. We are trying our best and trying do right by our students. Yet, we hear the constant complaints and criticism. We hear parents and politicians calling us selfish, lazy, and stupid. We take these complaints personally. This is not a normal year. We are trying our very best just to get through. Yet, policy-makers, administration, and parents keep asking for, “just one more thing”. They keep asking us to pretend this is a normal year. And we are breaking-down. T
he fact that the hashtag #teachersarehuman has 5.4 thousand posts should tell you that teachers everywhere are screaming to be treated as everyone else this year. We are trying to deal with our own families and lives in this pandemic. We are worried about our health and safety and the health and safety for those around us. Teachers make mistakes. We are trying out a new way of teaching that has never, ever, been done before. Without any training or time to practice, we jumped right in, and not everything is going to be perfect.
Teachers are juggling things they’ve never had to juggle before. And as we know, eventually, even the best jugglers drop their balls if they have too many. I asked teachers on my instagram and they wrote to tell me what they were juggling this year. Teachers are juggling their worries of students not “falling behind”, students social and emotional well-being, their own social and emotional well-being and mental health. They are juggling the demands of parents, administration, and curriculum. Teachers have to juggle engagement, safety, wanting hands-on learning, increased student needs, and technology. Teachers are also juggling their physical well-being, keeping a work-life balance, constantly not knowing if they will be in person or remote, working and teaching their own kids from home. Finally, teachers are juggling wanting the best for their students and their own expectations for themselves as teachers.
I would say that this is a major low-point for educators everywhere. This is by far the toughest year we have ever had. Teachers everywhere and with all different kinds of experience are feeling sad, frustrated, drained, and exhausted. When asked on Instagram how they would describe this year in one word, teachers choose exhausted and frustrated the most, in addition to these other feelings.
In addition to everything that teachers are dealing with, as listed above, teachers have their own expectations of themselves as teachers. I am constantly feeling like I am not enough for my students. I am constantly judging myself based on my previous years as a teacher. And these thoughts are not helpful or healthy, but I can’t help it. I am sad for my students and I am sad for myself.
This is not how I wanted to teach. I feel like I am treading water and every day of the week a brick gets added (like in the lifeguard challenge) so that by the end of the week I am trying to hold 5 bricks and continue to tread water. I feel like I am driving at night but my headlights won’t work and I can’t see what’s ahead. For a planner like me, that has been a really hard adjustment to make. I have lost all my joy and passion for teaching, and I just have to hope that I can find it again after this year.
So, how can you help teachers right now? You can remember that this is not a normal year. And that teachers are breaking ourselves trying to do right by our students. But the constant criticisms, complaints, insults, and piling on of “just one more thing” does not help. So please, please, please, thank a teacher this week for doing everything they’re doing this year, and remember next time you get frustrated that a link is wrong or an assignment is confusing, that teachers are human and we are trying our best in this insane year.
Remember who you should really be mad at when you are frustrated with the state of your child’s education this year. You should be mad at the politicians who worried more about the economy than stopping the spread of this pandemic, and who cared more about getting kids in schools than they did in caring how it was done. You can be mad at the media for pitting teachers and parents against each other. We are supposed to be partners in children’s education, not opponents.
And next time policies or decisions are being made about education, please, please, listen to us educators. We tried this time around and we were not listened to. And I worry that we will lose many talented educators.