Let’s Give Each Other Some Grace this World Teachers’ Day
By Jimmy Lee, ATPE State President
Since 1994, people the world over have celebrated Oct. 5 as World Teachers’ Day, recognizing the vital role educators play in our communities. This year, the theme is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future,” which, as a long-time educator and husband of a superintendent, I find more than fitting.
In a year of uncertainty and worry, educators have been a source of inspiration, ingenuity, and creativity. We’ve also sometimes been a source of ire for parents and guardians struggling to balance virtual learning and their own workloads during COVID-19.
It’s natural for there to be anxiety and frustration toward the challenges brought on by the unknown. Whatever lies ahead, I urge parents and educators to give each other some grace. Parents want only what’s best for their children, and they will fight for it tooth-and-nail. That’s admirable, and it’s understandable.
Teachers want only what’s best for your children, too. I believe our teachers and educators deserve some large measure of understanding for pioneering through uncharted lands and finding new ways to teach. Schools across Texas haven’t stopped providing students with education, support, resources, and social engagement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken six months from our “normal” lives. In March, when schools began to close, nobody knew what to expect. Nobody had concrete answers, and we all plunged into this strange new world together. But teachers and parents, together, adapted. We made the switch to virtual learning and tried our best to educate Texas children.
It wasn’t perfect. We liken last spring to triage teaching. Many of us have mastered a certain style of teaching and learning after years as practitioners. But we’re finding creative solutions to adapt to our new circumstances.
The switch to digital learning revealed some socioeconomic inequities among some of our student demographics, which we, as a society, should work to address, but by and large, our teachers taught, parents helped keep their children ready to learn, and our students learned.
Together, we led the way.
As a long-time educator, I know getting ready for a new school year can be challenging in the best of times. Now, teachers and administrators alike have had to scramble to enter a brand-new school year in the middle of a pandemic and an eventual return to campus amid social distancing restrictions.
The state didn’t share COVID-19 school guidelines until late summer, weeks before originally adopted school start dates, and even now, things continue to change. In the meantime, COVID-19 continues to make its way through our communities. Schools are grappling to institute processes that will ensure students learn but also keep them—and school employees—healthy and safe.
Now we’re four-to-six weeks into the school year, depending on your district. Some of us are back in classrooms. Some of us are still teaching virtually. Some of us still worry. All of us are leading the way forward.
Teachers can be an easy scapegoat. When a parent perceives their child isn’t getting the education they deserve, they can focus on the teacher, ignoring the surrounding circumstances.
But many teachers are parents, too. We understand the anxiety that comes with wanting the best for your children. Our children.
As educators, our students need us now more than ever. The need for an education hasn’t changed, the world around us has. Educators are burning the midnight oil to ensure the education and well-being of their students.
Through this determination and effort, students will come out better equipped and prepared. Don’t tell an educator that something can’t be done, we’ll prove you wrong, always have and always will. Educators have an internal drive that doesn’t know the words give up or quit.
So, this World Teachers’ Day, please remember how hard your child’s educators are working to create stability in these unstable times. Thank your child’s teacher for adapting to new teaching techniques, leading in this crisis, and reimagining what our classrooms will look like for the foreseeable future.
Jimmy Lee is a long-time educator from Paris, TX, and the State President of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, which represents 100,000 educators statewide. Learn more at email@example.com.