Oh Teachers, How do We Love You? Let Us Count the Ways!
The first week of May is traditionally known and celebrated as Teacher Appreciation Week. It's a week filled with things such as the 5 gifts teachers really want - homemade cards, flowers picked from the garden, and delicious PTA sponsored lunches in the Teacher's Lounge. Some schools celebrate it as Teachers Day on a single day! But this year, during an unprecedented global pandemic and with schools operating virtually, celebrating you, our incredible teachers, may look a little different. There is no way we could adequately express our gratitude to you and your professionalism, but we wanted to do our best and try to spell out all that you as teachers mean to us, always, but especially this year in the midst of all that students are experiencing with the COVID-19 closures.
#1 - T is for Teacher - Took all the instructional challenges in stride
There are very few professions that can, quite literally, change their entire professional strategy overnight. This spring, most educators had to take their detailed lesson plans for the rest of the year and throw them out the window or completely change the way they planned to deliver them. And yet, you did it. Collectively, as a group of professionals, you've taken all these challenges in stride. You came up with a plan B for instruction on how to care for your students in the midst of uncertainty. For that, your students, their parents, and your community are incredibly grateful!
#2 - E is for the first E in tEacher: Expressed concern for their students
Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of COVID-19 learning was the fact that teachers and students instantly lost the daily face-to-face contact they were used to having. As educators, we use the term "our kids" intentionally. As all teachers shifted to distance learning, in addition to scrambling to create content and share it in a new way, teachers were striving to care for their students' physical and emotional well-being at the same time. This was no longer as easy as a hug or a high-five at the end of the day-still, with all they had going on, teachers took the time to make sure their students had food, school supplies, and the access and ability to continue their course work.
#3 - A is for the A in teAcher: Accepted that sometimes less is more.
While teachers are used to bell-to-bell instruction and making the most of every moment, educators have done a phenomenal job of whittling down what really needs to be done right now. They've taken the emotional pulse of their students (and students' parents!) and created a plan for instruction that keeps students learning and sane! Recognizing that most parents, students, and teachers are suddenly juggling multiple responsibilities at home, teachers were forced to pause some of their favorite projects or units and instead head back to basics or think outside the box so that learning could occur, but not at the cost of completely overwhelming all involved parties.
#4 - C is for the C in teaCher: Choose to teach because of their passion and commitment
Parents and caregivers all around the world will, most likely, let out a collective sigh of relief once schools reopen. The past few weeks, as parents have attempted to facilitate learning from home, have solidified the idea that teaching is not for the faint of heart. Teachers don't choose to go into education because of the huge paycheck, endless public support, or because it is easy. Teachers choose to teach because they are passionate about it! It's that passion that drives them to create engaging lesson plans, stay on campus way past the dismissal bell, and further their own educations (at a hefty cost!) so that they are better equipped to inspire and assist their students. Their passion and commitment are awe-inspiring because teaching is not easy!
#5 - H is for the H in teacHer: Helped parents adjust as well
While pre-COVID-19 teaching certainly included parent communication, the majority of a teacher's time and energy was spent interacting with their students and colleagues throughout the day. Now, however, depending on the grade level and content area they teach, teachers are spending countless hours communicating with parents. They're attempting to teach parents how to use new digital resources, so their children can access instruction. They're coordinating school bus meals or supply drop-offs. They are calming parents' nerves as much as students' nerves, as parent anxiety is skyrocketing daily. Yet, through it all, in the midst of certain uncertainty, our teachers have once again remained the constant for our students and for us. They've created the "we will get through this together" battle cry, and now, a few weeks in and with summer in sight, parents are starting to believe them.
#6 - E is for the second E in teachEr: Expected questions and provided answers.
More than 54.5 million students have been affected by COVID-19 school closures, and the phenomenal teachers of those students continue to show up time and time again, so their students can ask questions. From text messages to emails and video calls, teachers continue to bend over backward to meet the unconventional needs of their students during these unconventional times. These aren't just simple questions, either. While some are about content-the same types of questions they would get in class-some are about technology that the teachers themselves are still learning on the fly. Some are the really difficult questions, the ones for which nobody quite has an answer. As students continue to ask, "When will life go back to normal?" and "When can we see our friends again?" teachers have remained rock-solid and steady, helping to provide the stability that students so desperately need.
#7 - R is for the final R in teacheR: Recognized the silver lining and helped the rest of us see it too!
The phrase "Different isn't bad; it's just different" has been floating around school emails and Zoom meetings. This distance learning season is helping educators and society as a whole learn how to adjust to doing things differently, and that has produced some beautiful results. With after school clubs and extra-curricular activities canceled, teachers are home to have dinner with their families. Without daily PE classes or the ability to head to the gym, families are finding time for long walks and bike rides. Now that they aren't spending from sunup till sundown at a school site, teachers can take a midday break and play a board game with their children or call a loved one to check in and say hello. As teachers share the upside of distance learning with society, they give their communities hope. They remind us while this season will come to an end, there are aspects of it we will want to remember and continue to implement. In many ways, distance learning has forced us to slow down, and our teachers are showing us how important that is!
Teachers, you are our everyday heroes! We celebrate you this month, and always, for your dedication, hard work, and tireless commitment to your students! Start making those back-to-school supply lists now because there is an entire country's worth of parents who can't wait to express our gratitude and thanks to you once our schools reopen. Ten packs of sharpened pencils? Done. Smelly markers for grading math worksheets. Awesome! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Thank you, Teachers.