Teachers Are Frontline Workers Too

Driving up the hill past the sign planted by our neighborhood civic association, I realized that although it was a well deserved tribute to front line workers during these Covid-19 times,  there was no mention of teachers. This made me both sad and upset.  Please give me a few minutes of your time to tell you why.

As a retired teacher I know all about the gripes and criticisms leveled at teachers. I mostly think of those rants as disguised resentment for those “cushy hours” and long summer vacations that teachers get. I never let them bother me because I know firsthand how hard teachers work every day under normal circumstances.  

But today’s circumstances are far from normal. Yesterday  I dialed into a zoom event hosted by one of the co-directors of The Long Island Writing Project, a group of teachers that provided a lot of writing instruction and support during my teaching years.  One of the markers of  teachers is that we are in it for life so we continue to learn whenever we have an opportunity to do so. I learned so much during that hour about the teachers who are currently in the trenches. Many are juggling personal lives with school-age kids of their own while trying to learn and adjust to a new mode of teaching and cranking out daily lessons for their students scattered hither and yonder.

I heard and saw teachers talk about sitting at kitchen and dining room tables in their homes with their own kids surrounding them, each family member simultaneously looking at their individual screens while following a lesson or teaching one. Many teachers’ homes have been converted into semi-classrooms with furniture rearranged for minimum disruption to daily life while offering some kind of quasi-school structure for the homebound learners.

All of the teachers talked about the very quick shift they were forced to make from being  classroom teachers to acquiring technology skills on the fly. Remote learning and teaching is a field of study unto itself. I know that because in the late 70s and 80s I helped to produce some on-air programs at the State University at Stony Brook for graduate students. Having to acquire the skills to effectively deliver digital lessons to their students within such a condensed period of time without any support is a tribute to how resilient and dedicated most teachers are.

Most parents (at least those communicating online) seem to be very grateful to their children’s teachers for their efforts. Many teachers are going above and beyond delivering academics to also supporting their students’ mental health. Teachers with low-income students have it doubly hard trying to keep track of their flock who do not have a strong support structure at home yet are the students who need them the most.

This is a work in progress, folks. Fortunately most teachers are lifelong learners and will keep at it until they get it right. Meanwhile they bravely plow forward usually with only each other for support. The online group meeting I attended  made me very proud to be part of a tribe called Teachers. Let’s show them some love, too.

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barbara suter

I'm a retired teacher who enjoys writing and sharing in this; unique blogging community.

12 thoughts on “Teachers Are Frontline Workers Too”

  1. I’m glad you wrote this including teachers, as they do deserve this Frontline honor. I don’t think non educators realize the teachers with kids are pulling double duty simultaneously-teaching their students and their own children. I’m going to share your story with my son and daughter-in- law, whom are educators. Thank you Barbara! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every day I wonder if I would be able to do what they’re doing. The stress must be off the charts. Many are enjoying certain aspects of doing it, but all are being expected to make great sacrifices, especially if their own children are at home with them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s no doubt teachers are doing double-duty during the lockdown. Teaching online during an emergency requires skills many teachers had to learn on the fly. Teachers are putting in longer hours and experiencing trauma just as are students, but there is a big difference between medical professionals working in COVID-19 hotspots and teachers having to deal w/ the new normal of virtual teaching: teaching online does not put teachers at risk of infection from the coronavirus. I’m a recently retired teacher of 38 years, and I have assisted a couple of former colleagues as they navigate the online teaching required of them. My big concerns are the widening achievement gap resulting from discrepancies in tech access and the impending education budget cuts that will hit public schools, many of which still have not recovered from the 2008-2009 cuts. I’m also concerned about the growing push to move school online coming from those whose agenda is to destroy public education. These should be the focus of teachers in the wake of the pandemic. Teachers insisting they be called “frontline workers” doesn’t resonate well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Glenda. Frontline workers, no. But teachers can be helpers in this emergency remote teaching time. I strive to be available for my colleagues, parents and students, the way Mr. Rogers’ mom told him to look for the helpers.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Teachers are not “insisting they be called “frontline workers”; I labeled them as such. They are essential, they work long hours, they are trying to do double duty as parents and teachers and they go the extra mile for their students. No, they are not risking their lives every day, but they are saving young lives every day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re not the first teacher I’ve heard calling teachers frontline workers. I’ve seen this on both Twitter and FB a number of times.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I have no doubt teachers are working harder than ever during this time. I’ve been retired for a while, now, but I see on social media what many of my former colleagues are doing. They are juggling many plates but still trying their best to keep students engaged and learning. They are to be commended.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am hoping that with this parents, and people in general, are coming to realize that teaching is not a 9-to-5 job where teachers come to work, put in their time,and go home to forget about their job until the next day. You perfectly state that teachers are teaching their students as well as being teacher and mommy to their children and wife/husband to their spouse. Teaching is not an easy job and not one for the faint of heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most teachers I know are lifelong learners and 24/7 advocates for children of all ages. We all hope that one of the important take aways from this pandemic is that teachers are one of our most value and most under-appreciated professionals. Nice to hear from you after my long absence, by the way!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you, Barbara. It is always good to have someone to listen to our frustrations, and you were there for the teachers. And now you are working on support. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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