Saturday, January 16, 2021

To a Teacher in a Pandemic

I have seen many stories this year about the academic struggles of students.  Many teachers have a lot of student failures -- more than they have experienced in their entire career.  And it can be demoralizing. But teachers… you have not failed.   You have bent over backwards for your students.  You have given them chance after chance after chance… and many of them are continuing to make decisions that don’t seem rational to us.  While you all are not responsible for the decisions of your students; many of you all are taking these grades personally.  You hurt because your students have not been successful, but you also hurt because you know many of your students are confronted with challenges at home which are out of their control.  And so you hurt because your students hurt.  I always appreciate conscientious educators, but I don’t want you to feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

 When you Google school mission statements, you will see phrases like:


“We will challenge students to reach their potential…”


“We will maximize learning opportunities…”


“We will inspire students to be life-long learners…”


“We will provide a safe and nurturing environment…”

 

The imperative of providing a safe environment is the obvious reason so many schools have transitioned to a virtual learning model. Safety trumps “best practices.”  But how do we fulfill our academic mission in a pandemic?  To put it bluntly, we refuse to give up.  We continue to maximize opportunities for students; we continue to challenge; we continue to nurture; we continue to inspire.  

 

So how many opportunities do our students deserve?  I’m not sure how to answer that except to refer back to the mission.  And consider what is missing from most mission statements.  Timeframes.  Timeframes for gaining knowledge… timeframes for developing skills… timeframes for learning.  The goal is that they will become responsible; clearly many of our students are not there yet.  So we push on.


One of my former teachers became the Teacher of the Year for his district several years ago.  A reporter asked him for his advice to teachers. This is what he said: “Teach every student like you are their lifeline.  You are their last chance to succeed.  You don’t know what each child has been through.  You don’t know how many chances each child has had.”

 

When you look at your list of students, you may see a lot of failures.  When I look at our list of teachers, I see a lot of lifelines.  Do the students deserve another chance after you have given them so many already.  Perhaps not.  But as one teacher told me, “This is the year for grace.”  That would suggest that “deserve” has got nothing to do with it.  The mission of all educators is about our collective commitment to our students.  So thank you for making that commitment.  I hope we will all be able to look back on this year and remember it as the year we refused to give up on our students.


7 comments:

  1. All of my babies deserve so much more, than I can ever give them through this computer. We learn, laugh, and love each day with each other!!

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  2. So wonderfully written. I agree that as difficult as these times are we as teachers won't and don't give up. I can also, speak for those students who get up everyday in spite of there situation and log into there online classes to learn. As mentioned, weather we think a students deserve another chance at a better grade, another chance at learning, another chance to do it over to get it right, we give that chance anyway because the teacher in us, that lifeline, continues to reach out to that student. We as teach know the struggles that our students have and during this pandemic we can only imagine the extra struggles because we are not there in the home to physical see it. So that compassion to be a help and lifeline to our students kick in to continue teaching and reaching out to our students. (Commitment)

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  3. Giving up is not an option in this profession!! This statement goes hand in hand with one of my educational mantras; 'Every Child Can Learn, Every Child Must Learn'. Learning takes place anywhere. Whether it be remotely or in person, teaching and learning - to the highest expectations, is of utmost importance. To be a teacher in a pandemic does not change the fact that you are a teacher. So, what does it change - well, your teaching styles, I hope. We have no choice but to be flexible these days, and that's a good thing. We have always been motivators, but been a pandemic teacher it takes just a little more. We have to encourage students and give them the opportunity to speak up and collaborate. Even when their answers are as wrong as two left shoes, we still have to encourage them. This is a way to ascertain what they are thinking. Being a teacher in a pandemic also reinforces our skills to deliver explicit instructions. So, as stated before, giving up is not an option. In this precarious time, these students need us more than ever.

    Now, do I think I am failure because of grades and lack of participation. No! I have bent over and backwards for all my students. I act professionally, act silly just to get them to participate. But, as it is often said, we don't know the challenges these students face. Some of these students are parents, babysitters, among many other professions, while at home and trying to be in school at the same time. It is hard!

    One of my concerns, though, is that some students and parents need to be held accountable for not doing anything at all to help the smooth flow of the teaching and learning process.

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    Replies
    1. I hope you are appreciated and valued where you work. Your passion for teaching is what every student needs. Thank you!

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