We’re Halfway Through Another Pandemic School Year: Let’s Recognize Our Teachers by Ann Marie Patitucci
Parents and teachers: We’re half way through the school year! Can you believe that this is the third school year that has been impacted by the global pandemic? This March will be two full years since we learned about COVID-19. At that time, school as we knew it changed, practically overnight.
At the start of 2022, teacher morale seems to be at an all-time low. We’ve asked so much of our teachers in the past two years. Before the pandemic, they were already overworked and underpaid. How do I know for sure? I taught at a public high school for three years before going back to school and beginning my career in higher education. I also spent several months substitute teaching in my sons’ school when my family relocated to Virginia. Trust me, teachers were working hard before the pandemic. They give so much to our children, much of which we parents never see.
When I taught high school students many years ago, we held fire drills; teachers today are responsible for active shooter drills. We should not underestimate the toll this takes. In addition, I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t bring work home at the end of the school day, whether the literal work of grading and lesson planning or the mental work of thinking and worrying about the kids who need them most. This work continues through their vacations, when teachers spend at least part of their off-contract time creating new lesson plans, attending professional development workshops, taking college courses and shopping for classroom supplies (which they pay for out of their own pockets). This was all true pre-COVID.
The pandemic has placed additional demands on our teachers. They were required to learn new teaching modalities, with little to no preparation. Nearly two years in, they’re still contending with health guidelines, the mask debate, their colleagues leaving the profession and parent criticism about things beyond their control, sometimes while teaching in-person as well as virtually. Due to a shortage in substitutes, teachers across the country are being pulled from their planning periods to cover their colleagues’ classes when subs can’t be found. All this while considering what’s best for themselves and their own families during a global pandemic. Just when it seems like things are finally moving along more smoothly in education, something else changes and teachers must adjust, while teaching and keeping their students – our kids – safe, as best they possibly can. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a shortage of substitutes, that excellent teachers are leaving the profession, that there’s a decrease in young people pursuing education degrees. It’s a terrible shame but it’s really no wonder at all.
Now that we’re half way through the school year, I think it would be nice to recognize our teachers and other school staff members for their hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I can’t think of another profession, besides those in health care, that has given more to society during the pandemic. Here are four ideas:
- Write a Simple Thank You Note: No one goes into education for praise. That said, don’t underestimate the power of a thank you note to make a teacher’s day, to make them feel appreciated, especially during such a stressful, uncertain time.
- Help Where You Can: If your child’s teacher asks for assistance, jump in and help if you’re able. If the teacher doesn’t reach out, you can still lend a hand. For instance, ask what the classroom needs are or donate something for learning activities or recess. If the teacher is planning a class party, offer to create a SignUpGenius. (Note that COVID guidelines may prevent parents from visiting the classroom).
- Give the Gift of Relaxation: I can’t think of anything a teacher needs more right now than the chance to slow down, unwind and relax. Perhaps you and a few other parents could put together a gift basket with home spa items, essential oils, bath bombs, etc. (Ideally you’ll want to find out if the teacher has any allergies/scent preferences.) If several parents are able to contribute, maybe you could include a spa gift card for a day of pampering!
- Be Patient and Kind: Most importantly, please be patient, kind and compassionate toward teachers right now. To say they are going above and beyond the call of duty would be an understatement. If you have a question or concern, by all means address it, but please remember that teachers are human, too, and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, just like everyone else.
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