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?