Sunday, September 13, 2020

Our Teachers Are Awesome. I know, I live with one.

    I am so proud of all the educators I know. Teachers all over the country have started or will start their school year very soon.  In my district, we started the school year virtually for the first three weeks and when we went back to in-person learning last Tuesday. We had about half of our students choose to remain in a virtual setting. While I am too old and too set in my ways to ever be convinced a student isn't better off in an in-person school setting, I do understand and respect the decision of families that choose to keep their kids home during these uncertain times.

    My wife and kids work and attend school in a neighboring district. They start their in-person learning tomorrow.  Suddenly the decisions I have been dealing with on a professional level have become very personal.  After months of wondering if and when we would ever go back to school, the time is here. To be honest, I am not worried about the kids. Maybe I should be, but I truly believe they will be okay and I know it will be good for them to be around their peers. They like school for the most part and I trust they will be in the best care possible.  It is the educators I am worried about.

    I read an excellent blog post this week written by a teacher entitled I Don't Like Brene' Brown Anymore (I love her work by the way, and so does the author) and thought it was an excellent reflection on just how much we have all relied on teachers during this pandemic.  They have done SO much.  I know.  I live with one.  My wife, Sarah, is going to teach second grade this year for the first time.  She has taught multiple grade levels, been an assistant principal and principal, then chose to return to the classroom a couple of years ago.  Why you ask?  Because she loves it. She loves her students and from what I can tell, is a great teacher. Yeah, I might be biased, but I am not the only one that says it. She still hears from kids that have graduated that she taught in first grade so I would say she has had an impact on many. I know this, few, if any, do it with more passion or enthusiasm.  

There she is!!

    Over the last few months, I have gotten a true behind the scenes look at what our teachers are going through and I am so proud of her and all my educator friends.  I have seen her cry because she didn't get to say good-bye to her kindergarten students in May.  I have seen her work for hours upon hours this summer making videos to welcome her students and create lessons so they could understand and enjoy school again.  I have seen her laugh with her team during zoom meetings (or zoom happy hours) and I have seen her sit through long, monotonous virtual meetings with the very best of intentions. I have even been next to her when she has gotten kind, sweet emails from parents and when she gets ugly, mean ones as well. With all the frustrations going on in the country right now, teachers have taken more than their share of the responsibility in making things right. Like teachers everywhere, Sarah has played the role of teacher, tech support, counselor, doctor, and even parent, for the families she serves.  All of this was new for her and she has done a remarkable job holding it all together.  You wouldn't know that if you didn't live with a teacher.  

Here is what conferring and giving feedback to a student looks like!!

    There is a lot of things you wouldn't know if you didn't live with a teacher. I have gotten to see the countless ridiculous requests that are made of them (some from administrators like me). I have seen her answer the same questions graciously to the same parent for the fourth, no fifth time.  I have seen countless Amazon boxes be delivered to our door in the last few weeks, all ultimately destined for the classroom, because some student might not have what they need or because she had to have these flashing disco lights that might just make the class a little more fun.  I have been up to the classroom a few times to try and help.  I got to tape the name tags on the desks and lockers (only after specific directions and a tutorial), but I left and she remained at school for hours to make sure it is just right.  We made a few trips to get school supplies and pick up the pictures of her kids she had printed so she could put in frames. 


Wall of Fame! Late night run to CVS to pick up the rest!

    When she got her class list this year she was so excited and she has done her very best to make them feel comfortable during virtual learning the last couple of weeks, but tomorrow she will meet them for the first time.  She is nervous.  As teachers, we are all nervous the day before school, but this year is different.  This year the "team building" activities won't look the same. This year they will eat lunch two kids per table.  This year they can't share a book or pencils. This year she and teachers everywhere are having to relearn and reinvent everything they have ever done.  And most, like Sarah, are excited and thankful to do it.  

Essential supplies by the classroom door!

  Tonight, we have about about five boxes by the front door to take to school tomorrow.  They are packed with a lot of the usual things.  There are snacks for the students that may forget or don't have one.  There are extra school supplies.  But there is also a box of face-masks and a box of disposable gloves along with extra hand sanitizer.  She is a teacher, not a nurse, but yet these are a must this year.  These are the things we didn't use to think about on the eve of the first day of school.  There are a lot of things we didn't use to think about.  

    Sarah, like so many others, pours her heart into her job. Yes, I am so very proud of teachers everywhere tonight.  They truly do make a difference, they always have. This year teachers, more than anyone else, may be the key to our country getting back to normal (whatever that is). They are being asked a nearly impossible task this school year, so please say a prayer and give them a little grace and encouragement. They work so very hard and they are incredibly dedicated to their students but you might not know that if you didn't live with one like I do. 

    To my wife on her first day, to my many friends who are educators, and to the millions of teachers all over the country, I say thank you for all that you do. Stay safe. Stay strong. Be Bold. 

1st Day With Students!!

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