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.