Teachers are Heroes (with Free Posters)
Supporting Our Teachers as School Starts This Fall Under the Threat of COVID-19
School is something that many of us have taken for granted. Parents have grown accustomed to sending their kids to school while they go to work, while students sit at their desks dreaming of what life would be like if they didn't have to go to school every day.
COVID-19 is teaching us many lessons. It is teaching us the importance of handwashing, it has given us the term "social distancing," and it has shown us how important it is to our mental health to maintain relationships with friends and family.
Teachers are Heroes Posters
More than anything else, COVID-19 is teaching us profound lessons about how much students, families, communities, and even the economy depend on our schools.
Suddenly, parents are trying to work from home while taking care of children who are working independently using online learning platforms. Kids have discovered that they would rather go to school and see their friends instead of staying home all the time, even if it means going to class, and workplaces are scrambling to accommodate parents with more flexible schedules to deal with everything school closures entail.
In a perfect world, we could fix everyone's problems by sending our kids back to school full-time for the 2020-2021 school year, but we continue to live under the threat of COVID-19. That means school is going to look very different this fall, even if we don't like it.
Teachers' Secret Identities Revealed: It's Official! They're Superheroes!
Whether on a big screen or in a big book, chances are you've spent your fair share of time with some superheroes. Think back to the last action movie you watched. Who saved the day? It was probably a hero, and maybe a superhero at that. Most children daydream about a chance encounter with a superhero as he leaps across tall buildings or while she defeats the bad guy or rescues a kitten, but few expect it to actually happen. But what if I told you that children actually spend the majority of their weekdays surrounded by superheroes? They do. Teachers are superheroes!
Distance Learning, Traditional Learning, or Both?
There is no doubt that everyone wants children to return to school, but there are cases to be made on both sides of the aisle. Nothing can replace the kind of learning that takes place in a face-to-face setting, especially when it comes to educating children with learning challenges or those who require special support. Moreover, kids returning to school makes it easier for parents to return to work.
However, returning to the classroom too early has the potential to be deadly, with COVID-19 floating around. For example, three teachers were instructing students virtually from the same classroom for summer school classes. They all contracted COVID-19, and one of the teachers died. That's in a classroom without any students. The chances of getting coronavirus increase as soon as students are added to the mix. That's a pretty good argument for distance learning.
What is the right solution? For many school districts, like the largest school district in Iowa, the solution is a combination of a few days in the classroom while on the other days, engaging students with online learning. Families can make the choice to send their kids those few days, and for the families that do, students will be required to wear face coverings and maintain a safe distance between themselves and their teachers. Meeting just a few days a week will enable class sizes to remain as small as possible, which is great for learning and reducing the spread of the virus.
It's also possible that this strategy will change, as many districts haven't solidified their plans for the fall yet. As the virus continues to spread, schools may be closed altogether, while an effective vaccine may enable schools to open full-time once again.
The Trouble With These New Policies
There's one gaping problem with these new policies-they don't take into account teacher opinions, and teachers have a lot of valid opinions that should be considered.
One of the most important is the fact that all the attention is being placed on student learning, and almost none is being placed on the safety of teachers. For any teacher, this is a brand-new position to be in because teachers always want what's best for their students. However, teachers realize that this point of view is putting their health and the health of their families in danger.
As the research suggests now, children are unlikely to get sick from COVID-19, but they can spread it. With 60 percent of the teacher population over the age of 40, and older adults more likely to become severely ill or die from the virus, it's easy to see how we're putting our teachers at risk by reopening classrooms.
Teachers also know what kinds of questions get at the heart of whether returning to school is really even doable, even though no one seems to be considering these questions seriously. Just a few examples include:
#1 - If a teacher has a positive coronavirus test, and they have five classes each day with 30 students, do all 150 students need to be quarantined for 14 days? Will they all be tested? Who will pay for those tests?
#2 - Where will the district find substitute teachers to cover classrooms when a teacher is sick, especially if their students are potentially infected?
#3 - What if the substitute teacher gets COVID-19 and they have been in multiple schools? Who will be quarantined and tested?
Teachers also know their students, and they know their students are going to have a hard time following COVID-19 policies. Just ask any kindergarten teacher whether they will be able to keep the kids from touching each other, or ask a high school teacher how easy it's going to be to stop kids who are dating from holding hands in the hallway. Although policies of staying six feet apart and having smaller class sizes and socially distanced lunches sound good on paper, teachers know the reality of returning to school is going to be much more difficult because they live it every day.
A Superhero Has Super Strength
Have you ever seen a teacher carry supplies to their classroom on a Monday morning or lug canvas totes filled with papers to take home and grade on a Friday? This task is not for the weak! Have you tried the coffee in the teacher's lounge? Anyone who can make it through an entire school day fueled by weak coffee is certainly running on an alternative, superfueled energy source!
All kidding aside, being a teacher requires a certain type of strength that few people possess. They have to effectively manage a classroom filled with students who each have different abilities and needs, carry the weight of administrative and district responsibilities, and still care for their families' needs at home. A teacher's strength is enviable (and certainly honorable!). Their workday extends far beyond the typical 9-5. Their "summers off" are anything but as most are spent in professional development courses, planning for the upcoming school year, and completing requirements to maintain their teaching credentials.
Whether it's powering through a pandemic or the draining week of parent-teacher conferences, teachers are strong. Not unlike a Marvel character, they may emerge a bit ragged, but they always power through. That kind of superhero strength is inspiring.
A Superhero Has Secret Superpowers
No one is willing to admit it, and I've yet to find evidence of where the procedure is performed, but somewhere between receiving their teaching credentials and accepting their first teaching job, teachers have eyes implanted into the back of their heads. This is only one of their many super-secret teaching powers. Think about it; how else can you explain the fact that a teacher can be facing the board and without turning around correctly identify the student who just _________ (fill in the blank)? Whether it's the faintest whisper, the passing of paper, or the moving of a chair, teachers know and can call out the culprit! While they might not be busting through walls or scaling the windows of a high-rise, teachers do possess the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time. Stop and think about a day in the life of an educator. They are simultaneously teaching new content, engaging students, and meeting the differentiation needs (IEP or not) of their students. Some are experts in multiple subjects. Others who teach middle or high school are encountering hundreds of students each day.
While parents are the most influential adult when it comes to a child's education, a child's teacher takes a close second place. Knowing that, it shouldn't come as a surprise that teachers leave a lasting impact far beyond the nine months spent in the classroom. A superhero teacher can influence a student's future health, wealth, and overall performance simply by being a role model. Good teachers don't cast spells or use magic to manipulate outcomes, but their teaching strategies may very well leave students mesmerized. That certainly is a superpower.
How can we support teachers during this challenging time?
This is an unprecedented time for all of us, but it is an especially challenging time for teachers. They deserve patience, compassion, and kindness as they struggle with new policies, new online learning strategies, and the possibility of putting themselves and their families at risk if they return to the classroom.
What exactly does it mean to support teachers during this time?
Parents would do well to avoid spending too much time complaining about the situation to teachers. It's a little like complaining to the weatherman about a big snowstorm. They don't have any control over the storm itself-they're just the messenger. If you've got a bone to pick about new policies or about distance learning, take it up with school administrators, the school board, and local superintendents. Recognize this is far from an ideal situation and encourage your child to do the best they can with their school work, while cooperating with your child's teacher to get the most out of their education during this strange time.
Sometimes, it's the little things that have the biggest impact. Parents can work together with administrators to find ways to show teachers that they care. It might include gift baskets and gift cards, but it can also include posters that declare "Teachers Are Heroes" and "Heroes Work Here." These posters can be hung on the walls, in the windows, and staked into the school grounds, so teachers know their hard work and sacrifice is appreciated. Parents who live near local schools can also post these signs in their yard to support their teachers.
Superheroes Save the Day
Superheroes are known for saving the day. This may involve a last-minute rescue, the ability to intervene at just the right moment, or a dramatic fight for the underdog. Regardless of the time or place, each superhero is a savior. Likewise, teachers accomplish these tasks on the daily. On some days, a teacher-led rescue might look like the educator who gives up her lunch break to stay inside and help a struggling student. On other days, it's the teacher who reaches out over and over again during distance learning to make sure her students have the food, supplies, and items they need.
The teachers who go above and beyond, who display not only a passion for their jobs but, more importantly, for their classes, are the ones who make a lasting impact. It is these teachers who inspire their students to reach their fullest potential and pursue greatness. These teachers are the ones who-quite often literally-save the day. For some students, a teacher may be the only adult they ever encounter who actually believes in them, their potential, and their abilities. This belief leads to the increase in self-esteem that is necessary for a student to take risks and step outside his or her comfort zone. For luckier students, the teacher is another in a long line of supportive adults determined to cheer them on to success. Regardless, it is this belief and support that students need in order to keep going and pursue a bright future.
Being a superhero is not the same as being superhuman. Teachers are not immortal. They are not immune to hurt. Though it can't be scientifically proven, some would argue that teachers have larger hearts than the average population-at least when it comes to their emotional capacity. How else can we explain their limitless ability to love, care, and tirelessly work for their students? What else could drive them to communicate successes with parents and create partnerships at home to problem-solve unwanted behavior? A teacher's heart is the lifeblood of the classroom. Teachers' creativity, patience, and commitment to their students are gifts few will ever understand. Teachers, we salute you for being the heroes that you are! Please accept these FREE "Teachers are Heroes! posters" as our gift to you. You may not always feel like a superhero, but in our eyes and in the eyes of your students, you are super and heroic, which makes you the most incredible superheroes of all!