Article

March 26th, 2021

Educator Voices: What educators wish others could see about teaching this past year

CoronavirusEducation
5th grader students Ellyah Gonzalez (L),10, and Lazae Palacios (R), 10, study in a classroom with plastic partitions at Louise Elementary School, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Louise, Texas, Nov. 20, 2020. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

 

Editor’s note: At the one year mark of COVID restrictions and school closings, we put out a call to educators to reflect on the challenges and lessons learned from the past year. We started with the question: What do you wish people knew about teaching in the past year? What do you think journalists, politicians and others may not understand?

Many educators wished to remain anonymous to share their thoughts. We gathered some of the responses here and will be sharing more next week, including longer posts such as those linked below.

 

Rachel, seventh grade language arts and social studies teacher, Wash.

I’m a middle school teacher, and I wish people would realize that teachers are professionals and experts in their field. This year, we’ve been working harder than ever, and it’s been the most thankless year of them all. Schools never closed; school buildings did.

I’ve never felt more vilified or less respected than I do this year, and that’s only been amplified by the way politicians and the media talk about us and our unions. The school systems were falling apart long before this, and we are the ones who have always cared.

We’re fighting for your kids, all kids, and we have been since day one.

We have always cared about student mental health and holistic success, both personal and academic. Now, when you would expect the public to recognize our common plight and support us, the opposite has happened, largely because of how we’re being talked about.

We’re fighting for your kids, all kids, and we have been since day one. I just wish people would listen to us, fight for us, support us, instead of attacking us, our districts and our unions, especially when the only people I feel are looking out for me are other teachers, my school and my union. 

 

Charisse, middle school teacher, Calif.

As a public middle school teacher, both politicians and the media have held the line that virtual school is terrible, when it’s not. There are things that are difficult about virtual school, but there are also plenty of benefits, just like in-person school. I don’t think I’d want to do it forever, but while it’s keeping me and my students safe it is a pretty good option.

There are things that are difficult about virtual school, but there are also plenty of benefits, just like in person school.

Districts and some parents have been pushing for in-person instruction and changing plans and schedules all year, which is far more disruptive to children’s mental health and learning than sticking to a robust distance learning program for the rest of the school year.

 

David Lane, learning facilitator, Worcester, Mass.

COVID-19 is not causing problems in education. It is clarifying those we already had. Learning loss is a myth. It is a misconception based on deeper misconceptions, perpetuated by conventional schooling, about how and why people learn. School contributed to children’s deteriorating social, emotional and mental health long before 2020. Academic development was forced upon students and lacked relevance and far too often went no deeper than surface “pass-the-test” level.

I am disheartened by our leaders’ call for a rush ‘back to normal.’  We were unwilling before COVID to confront the ways “normal” caused more harm than good.

Our response to this crisis could be systemic and rooted in intrinsic motivation and learner agency. Instead, we are told, “People can handle only so much change.” That is the problem. School does not prepare us for inevitable disruption. Instead, it attempts to force standardization.

I am disheartened by our leaders’ call for a rush “back to normal.” We were unwilling before COVID to confront the ways “normal” caused more harm than good. And now the pandemic will provide cover for a long time. We need a call to action for learning based on trust and human intrinsic motivation.

We need to celebrate our students’ resilience and mourn together our losses, and break out of convention. I fear we will not.

Teacher Nicholas Ferroni addresses the change in how many teachers were treated in March versus the opening of the school year. Recorded during a NewsHour EXTRA teacher zoom in August, 2020.

 

Jennifer Smith, Eldersburg, Md., middle school social studies teacher (@Jennifer_Smith5 on Twitter)

No one has navigated this year with ease. We have all struggled, and we continue to struggle.  Yet through all of our ups and downs as a country, educators have remained steady and supportive of America’s children. We have connected with our students, America’s future, through little black screens and tried our best to provide some small sense of normalcy for them.

Despite all of the calls to “return to school,” educators have been working, and working very hard, for the past year.  Schools ARE open.  Children ARE learning.

Many politicians speaking out on reopening have not visited schools, and I have seen too few media reports of what an actual in-person classroom looks like during COVID-19.

Many politicians speaking out on reopening have not visited schools, and I have seen too few media reports of what an actual in-person classroom looks like during COVID-19.  I have plexiglass between my desks. Students sit 6 feet apart. I attempt to connect with and teach a group of students in my classroom and simultaneously a group of students who remain at home  — this feat is nearly impossible, like texting while driving. I’ve eaten lunch on a tennis court every single day despite the rain, snow and bitter wind this winter.

And through it all, we smile. We smile and laugh and sing and jump for joy in our classrooms — because now, the students need it more than ever.

 

More educator voices on the past year:

Educator Voice: The difference between physical education and physical activity during remote learning

Educator Voice: A call to acknowledge the work teachers have put in this year

If you would like to contribute to NewsHour EXTRA’s Educator Voice blog, please send your idea to Vic Pasquantonio at vpasquantonio@newshour.org.

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