by Whitney Williams
It's 8:30 on the first day of school. Teachers everywhere are taking deep breaths, putting huge smiles on their faces, and hitting the “start meeting now” button.
After our whirlwind 14-hour day we collapse into a warm bubble bath, ready to soak all our emotions away.
Teachers everywhere are moving live instruction online, starting on Day One with brand new faces in an online world. After each 45-minute session, eyes hurt, faces are cemented in permanent smiles, and we wish we had a cot under the desk to take a quick nap before we jump into the next one.
Supporting their children’s education from the other side are the multitude of parents and caregivers everywhere, reading and rereading teacher emails to make sure they know the schedule their child is expected to follow. They’re setting up Chromebooks supplied by the school, searching for their child’s ID number and their own passwords to their internet connections so they can be ready, whether they're lucky enough to be with their children all day or have to work. Worried phone calls about technology and attendance pour into the school for days on end, as parents try to adjust to this new way of school.
Yet, through it all, without consistent support from the state, our district tries to navigate this pandemic the best way we know how, with the kids at the forefront of our thoughts, and the health of the teachers and community not far behind. Without adequate funding we can do no more than we already are, so we're putting the positive spin on everything, making the best of a situation, as we always do. Teachers are resilient, and this year we are passing along that resilience in ways we’ve never done before. Our students are overcoming challenges they’ve never had, diving head-first into brand new technology, learning from home, juggling parent work schedules with school, and practicing self-care at the same time.
Not every child’s home is perfect. We can see that in the rising numbers for child trafficking, abuse in the home, varying levels of parental availability, food inequities and increased teen suicide. Our district will move to in-person instruction as soon as it's safe to do so, but for now we're trying to thrive in a world where everything seems stacked against us.
Our children always deserve more, and our state and government should provide more support, yet teachers are called superheroes for a reason: we make magic out of the coal that's given us.
Remember, the reason we do this is the fame and the money — oh wait, we mean the kids!
Please have compassion for teachers and school staff. It's hard to power through when we face a cloud of negativity from the community. We hear so many people saying things like, “Teachers are being selfish by not going back to work,” “Teachers have been sitting around all summer and now they are saying it's unsafe?” “Teaching in person is an essential job.” Nothing is farther from the truth.
Our hearts are breaking every day we can’t be with our students. We would go back to in-person teaching in a second. Mentally and in our big hearts we are so ready to be with kids, yet we have intense protocols to make school physically and mentally safe for all humans involved.
Together we can heal, together we can teach online!
Whitney Williams teaches at Abia Judd Elementary School.