Women's March - kids

The Urgency of the Moment

Nate Rios Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership

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As schools closed in March and Covid-19 silently bullied its way into our daily lives, my bubble shook. I’d spent the previous decade pouring myself into teaching and serving my district community. Then, without warning, I wasn’t to return to school on Monday. It was jarring. Ever since, I’ve found myself relying on others for guidance and support. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a band of educators to raise a community. 

The urgency of this moment isn’t lost on anyone. Daily, I hear from colleagues and friends about how important change is. Systemic change is needed. Our democracy is crying out. This pandemic has shown what educators have always known to be true. Society meets at the doorsteps of schools. There is no room for partisanship or tiered service levels.  We have to do our utmost to give every child the education they so richly deserve. 

And so, educators fret about the new normal under distance learning. We research new technology and devise new systems and pedagogy to tackle the latest challenges. Many of us are working even longer hours than before. We are redefining our ability to problem solve for the sake of the students that Zoom into our lives each day. 

Certainly, the pandemic offers its share of challenges but the obstacles to impactful instruction are mainly the same as before. Class sizes are too big. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Access to professional growth and training are hamstrung by ever shifting budgets. Teachers, lacking the resources they need and respect they deserve, leave our system. Consequently, the institutional knowledge that every organization requires is lacking.

Students need the best from us, but so does the profession. In an era where most everything is politicized, teachers must function as agents of political change. No more can we look at our situation and see what’s immediately in front of us. It’s not all about the immediacy of today. We get to shape tomorrow, too, and business as usual doesn’t work. We must address teacher mental health, the importance of childhood social and emotional learning, the value of state testing, class sizes, and access to technology. By tackling these problems, we can raise our community.

The pandemic has shined a spotlight on educational issues in ways our broader communities perhaps hadn’t noticed before. The pressures a defunded and neglected public school system place on our society are suddenly all too apparent. Society is facing a call to action that centers on genuine investment, not solely opinion. It is time to admit the value that schools hold in preparing the next generation to learn, think, and work.  We must embrace our collective responsibility to participate in solving educational problems and reject the phrase, “back to normal.” 

A new normal is upon us. What will your first step be to help move education forward?

 

 

Nate Rios has been a staple of the Flowing Wells community for 20 years. Even before earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religious Studies from the University of Arizona and a post-baccalaureate certification in 2007, he was a part of Flowing Wells High School, in Tucson, Arizona. Beginning in 2000, at the age of 18, Rios began volunteering to help mentor students through the non-profit Young Life. Long before teaching, he felt a calling to care for high school students regardless of their life situations. Due to his teaching experience, his values have grown even stronger: relationships always come first. In his 13 years teaching, Rios has worn many hats. Student Council, National Honors Society, leadership retreat, department chair, new teacher induction instructor, and instructional coach are just some of the many ways he’s contributed to the high school community. In 2018 he was an ambassador for teachers as a featured educator in Tucson Values Teacher’s documentary, TEACHING IN ARIZONA. His experiences caring for students and teachers both inside and outside of the classroom have led him all over the state to speak on behalf of educators and Arizona students. In 2020, his efforts culminated in his selection as an Arizona Educational Association Ambassador for Excellence. Ask any of his colleagues or students and they’ll tell you that he is dedicated to the betterment of the lives of every child and teacher.

Comments 1

  1. Kathy Wiebke

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Ben, about not wanting to return to normal. Our kids, schools, and the people that work inside of them, deserve better. We have turned a blind eye to so many of the inequities. We can do so much better.

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