A Sweet Gesture
One of the most touching memories from this past school year was of my son’s fourth grade teacher at our front door, masked and holding a bag containing an end-of-the year gift. The kids had been logging into her Zoom sessions for months.
I discovered that the younger siblings had been hovering and playing along with the scavenger hunts that she organized, chiming in and answering her questions. Not sure whether they should be imposing, I asked her permission. She welcomed them to join in and I was glad for the distraction her fun sessions offered the kids. Once a week, they connected to a sweet teacher and to some familiar student faces. I was grateful for every little bit of connection they got during these extraordinary times.
When I heard the doorbell that morning and saw a lone figure standing back on the walkway, I yelled out. “She’s here!!!” Remember that scene from The Sound of Music when Maria first arrived at the house to meet the kids and the Captain whistles to call them? I always loved that part when everyone thundered down the grand staircase. That’s what I thought of while listening to the herd of feet stomping overhead and watching the kids scrambling down the stairs. They were excited.
Everyone crowded around the doorway while I pushed my embarrassed 10-year old forward. No matter how much kids love their teachers, it’s a weird feeling to see her show up at your house! The younger siblings were thrilled though, bouncing around like puppies. We felt so valued by that sweet gesture. Our family would have remembered her forever anyway, but now we can never forget. Teachers are the best.
Protesting and Teacher Pay
Some weeks ago, a group formed to protest our district’s virtual-only school opening. While I can understand both sides of the argument, it was one particular statement that really had me fuming. During an on-air interview, the group representative felt that teachers should only be paid 50% of their salary because they were only going to be doing half of the work. Parents, she argued, will have to do the other half of educating their kids in a virtual learning environment. I was appalled.
The spring semester virtual learning experiment was a challenge. Schools were given little to really no time at all to try and cobble together some way to “teach” online, often with no guidance and no resources. These are unprecedented times. It’s not a surprise that it didn’t go well for many families. However, to say that teachers will be working less and deserve less pay during the virtual learning situation coming up in the fall? No, that does not sound right.
I think we all realize now the extent of the work a teacher has to do to keep the peace in the class, serve as counselor and judge, be a parent figure and disciplinarian, keep up with administrative tasks and parent demands, and oh, teach the kids things they need to learn in a way that captures their imaginations and is also memorable and fun. Phew! I’m sure there’s plenty more they do that I didn’t mention here because there really is no end to the value of a great teacher.
Knowing what we now know about the difficulties of virtual learning, we should be paying teachers even more for all the extra training, planning, re-working of curriculum, and equipment they may need to acquire. They will be as concerned as parents are about connecting to our children and finding a way to manage an online classroom, while trying to teach material. Many of them are working parents themselves.
The representative of the protest group has since retracted her opinion about slashing teacher pay. I absolutely understand how a person can sometimes get carried away with an argument and say things they don’t mean. I actually don’t hold it against her for perhaps throwing out a thought in the heat of the moment. But the disrespect expressed through that idea was evident and seems to be echoed by a minority of others.
I have come across some comments from the general public on social media accusing teachers of being lazy because they don’t want to work. They are also lamenting the fact that parents have to shoulder too much of virtual learning. By and large, teachers want to work, in a classroom, with their students. And parents want to send their kids to school. But we are living through a pandemic and that means we all need to be flexible.
No matter how we view the risks and the rewards of virtual vs. in-person school, can we agree that we respect teachers enough not to insult them with the idea that they will be avoiding hard work through virtual teaching? And when this season has passed, can we also agree that teachers deserve more respect at the least, and a pay raise if we can ever get it together as a society to invest and value them appropriately?
There is that saying that criticizes the teaching profession which goes something like, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” My version goes something like, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, send their children to people who can actually do the difficult job of imparting knowledge and skills to children while juggling a million other aspects of a profession that should be held in higher esteem in this country.”
As we are seeing now, our society would crumble without teachers. So while it will be a different kind of school year, I’ll do whatever I can to support them and I hope others will too. We owe it to our kids.