Anxious, uncertain, afraid – I have felt all these emotions the last few weeks. At times, it has been overwhelming. But, in the face of it all, the adjective that describes what I am feeling most is awestruck. I am simply awestruck by educators.
The district in which I work was on spring break the week of March 9. Students and staff were supposed to return to begin the 4th quarter on March 16. Teachers didn’t discover our schools were closed to students until March 14. The decision to work from home wasn’t announced until the evening of March 15.
Despite the shock, confusion, sadness, and worry I know they were feeling, I witnessed teachers (both the teachers I coach and my children’s teachers) spring into action to serve their students. I observed as they immediately began thinking outside the box so they could keep teaching their students. They quickly began setting up Google classrooms, signing up for online resources, learning how to use virtual meeting platforms, and videoing lessons. Many of them did all this while caring for their own children and vulnerable family members.
They worked at record speed, despite their own anxiety, to reinvent their educational practice and ensure their students would be able to continue learning. And while I know their content areas are what they are focused on, I can’t help but think about the priceless life lessons they are teaching their students.
So, to all the teachers, I have a personal message:
Yes, you are finding new ways to teach language arts, math, and science. But, you are teaching your students so much more.
You’re teaching them to be adaptable. Life is constantly changing and those who are able to quickly acknowledge the change and react accordingly will be able to successfully navigate the workplace and personal relationships. By acknowledging the sudden change in our school system and reacting quickly and positively, you are modeling adaptability for your students. What a valuable lesson to teach them.
You’re teaching the importance of relationships and human connections. We are all physically isolated now. It happened suddenly and without warning. When it did happen, your first action was to reach out to your students and their families. You are finding ways to stay connected. You are planning parades through neighborhoods, you are doing read alouds on Zoom, and you’re advising your seniors in Google hangout. You are teaching students the importance of nurturing relationships even in the most challenging circumstances. This will strengthen your students’ social-emotional well-being.
You are teaching social responsibility. You have completely changed the methods in which you teach and interact with students. You are following the advice of scientists and staying home. You are explaining the importance of social distancing to students. You’re honest with them about how much you miss your usual activities, but you describe why it’s important to refrain from them right now. By doing this you are teaching your students that sometimes the actions of the individual must benefit the whole of the society. You are developing better citizens by modeling social responsibility.
You are teaching perseverance. Perseverance is defined as continued effort despite difficulty, failure, or delay in achieving success. The effort you are committing to your educational practice despite the very difficult circumstances is nothing short of amazing. Additionally, you are coaching and advising your students through their own disappointments and difficulties. They have missed dances and games and are facing cancelled celebrations of milestones. But, you are helping them understand the importance of continued effort during this crisis. You are the epitome of perseverance and your students will remember your example for years to come.
While I know your attention is focused on the subjects you teach and you’re losing sleep because you don’t know how to deliver all your standards in a 30-minute Zoom meeting, I want you to know how much of a difference you are making.
You are teaching important life lessons that will endure beyond this crisis and your students will be better people and citizens because of it.
So, thank you. As an educator and a mom, I am deeply grateful for what you are accomplishing. You are extraordinary and you are doing more than enough.