Over the last few weeks, I have heard and seen various opinions about what life is like for teachers returning to teaching after five months away from their classrooms. As usual, some people continue to blame teachers for the complications of virtual and blended learning formats, not taking into consideration the fact that some of us did not receive training on a learning management system until one to two weeks before students “returned” to school. Others think that we feel less stressed out because some of us are teaching to empty classrooms, virtually connecting with our students through various interfaces instead of in-person.
Both are wrong. The problems are not our fault, and no we are not happy to be teaching to empty classrooms.
As usual, others seem to think that they can speak for educators. Bureaucrats and politicians have been doing it for years, so how about everyone else in society?
We need to hear from educators themselves. However, there are reasons why we aren’t talking.
Some of us aren’t talking because we are scared. We are scared that we might offend someone from our school board, our administrator, our HR director. We are scared that if we aren’t having as many difficulties with the new LMS that our co-workers will be angry at us for making this seem like it’s easier than it really is. We are scared that people outside of the classroom will speak for us because they apparently know what’s better for schools than the educators who are on the front lines every day.
To be honest, I’m tired. Just like everyone else during this pandemic, this political nightmare, this social crisis, this natural disaster of a year. I’m tired.
Teachers are just like everyone else. We are not superheroes even though right now we are being tasked with the responsibility of solving problems that are not ours to solve.
We are not trained to solve all of the technology problems that might arise with a new LMS, with bandwidth restrictions, and with remote learners who still don’t have Wi-Fi access even though this is 2020. And yet, on the news, it seems that if a school system is having difficulty with part of this new virtual environment, it must be the fault of educators. We didn’t prepare enough. We didn’t practice all of the things. We didn’t make sure that all of our learners had devices and Wi-Fi. There cannot possibly be any other reason why schools can’t get with the program with reliable and 100% virtual classroom environments for 100% of students.
We are not trained to manage the emotional and social well-being of all students. The very concept of SEL or social-emotional learning has only been around for about twenty-five years. However, most educators have been given little to no training in SEL strategies in the classroom. Even the most well-meaning teachers are not fully qualified to help counsel every student who is experiencing the same trauma as the rest of society in the midst of a pandemic, a contentious political election, rampant social conflict, and terrifying natural disasters.
Thankfully, according to Counseling Today, there is on average one school counselor per 455 students in public schools across the country today which is higher than the recommended ratio from the American School Counselor Association. However, it has taken school shootings and an increase of teen suicides for schools to have access to that many counselors. And now in the midst of the chaos which is 2020, many in the U.S. are proclaiming that sending students back to schools is best for their social and emotional well-being. In preparing K-12 administrators to return to school this fall, the Centers for Disease Control suggested the following:
- Schools are crucial to the infrastructure of communities, providing a safe and secure environment for children
- Schools provide critical instruction and academic support
- Schools provide support for the whole child – emotional, social, psychological, and intellectual
I agree with all of these roles for public and private schools. We are a crucial part of our society as a whole. However, we are often vilified because we do not seem to do enough, or what we are doing is not fitting a particular religious or political worldview.
We are tired. We are under appreciated. We are undervalued. Please don’t speak for us. Please do not blame us for all of the nation’s problems. We are not your scapegoats.
Today, it seems that people either think that educators are superheroes or villains. We are neither. We are human beings with human feelings. We are fallible creatures who do not know all of the ins and outs of all of the new technology. We have families and social lives. We are experiencing the same trauma as everyone else in this messed up COVID world.
And we are unique individuals who have chosen to spend our lives educating our nation’s children. We love your kids. We want the best for them. We want to have them all back in our classrooms. We miss their jokes. We miss their awkward moments. We miss their laughing in the cafeteria. We miss their music in the hallways. We miss their smiles and their tears.
We are not happy that they are at home, learning in this weird environment. We are not less stressed because our classrooms are empty or almost empty.
More than anything, we are tired. Just like everyone else. Please give us grace. Give us patience. Give us time, and we will get this figured out.
But please don’t speak for us. We have voices, just give us time to figure out how to use them again.
Bray, Bethany. “One Counselor Per 455 Students: Nationwide Average Improves.” Counseling Today, American Counseling Association, 10 May 2019. Electronically accessed at https://ct.counseling.org/2019/05/one-school-counselor-per-455-students-nationwide-average-improves/#:~:text=Across%20the%20U.S.%2C%20there%20is,three%20decades%2C%20according%20to%20ASCA.
“History.” Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2020. Electronically accessed at https://casel.org/history/
“Preparing K-12 School Administrators for a Safe Return to School in Fall 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2020. Electronically accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/prepare-safe-return.html