In virtual church this morning, we read the verse from Isaiah 50 that says "The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher." As a lifelong educator, myself, I ponder that quite seriously. Do I believe that the tongue of a teacher is a gift and talent I have been given? Yes, and I believe it is also my responsibility to use it for good and not for evil.
I have watched so many educators deal with turmoil this past year with grace and courage. What kind of courage? Some people have criticized schools and teachers for not wanting to "get back to work". Just what do these critics think teachers have been doing for the past year? I assure you that eating Bonbons is not part of that equation. "But teaching online has to be easier. You can do it in your pajamas" spout some of the critics. Pajama bottoms or not (well, don't take that phrase out of context----stick with me), teachers have had to learn (and teach their own students) an entire new way to conduct the business of school. From learning and implementing new digital tools (both quickly and with fidelity, I might add, so to minimize wasted time that should be used to teach and learn), to dealing with students and parents who struggle with getting on Zoom in the first place, to going back to school face to face one day only to be told "Nope, we have to go back online---we have three cases of COVID in our building", it is enough to make a teacher's head spin (and maybe even spit out pea soup in the spinning).
What can these critics be thinking? I wonder to myself and aloud to you. Imagine trying to corral 28 Kindergarten children into their seats, when some are still really YOUNG Kinders, and trying to keep them focused on you while you teach at the front of the room. You must constantly use proximity to remind them to focus on the board or on the other student who is speaking. Now, change the game: the Kinders are no longer in the classroom. They are on Zoom----some with absolutely no adult supervision, because, well....Mom had to go to work. This is not a myth I'm creating---this is real life that I have witnessed through watching teachers and student teachers teach all over the country. The students who have the capacity to maintain some semblance of attention while the teacher has them identify words that rhyme with "dog" hold up white boards or write on virtual white boards. Those who don't quite possess that necessary maturity are essentially in the outfield picking daisies. Seriously, they are seen petting their cat that walks between them and the computer; they are heard yelling at their brothers or sisters; they are trying to listen while someone in the house has loud 70s disco music blaring in the background (you can't make this stuff up); and you are trying to teach while all this is going on!
Without ever deviating from their primary purpose of keeping students' learning first and foremost, these teachers have given up their "free time" (that is a misnomer, by the way, as most teachers do not possess free time) to talk with parents about how to turn up the volume on their computers or to work with students with special needs one-on-one as a classroom setting on Zoom simply doesn't cut it for some students' learning abilities or to adapt lessons that are meant to be taught in person but have to be quickly adjusted to virtual learning.
How about if we all remember that teachers have been given a Goliath sized task, and they, like David, have a small slingshot in their hands. But they are making it work, trust me. I am blessed to see it happen on an almost daily basis, and it makes me so proud to be an educator.
Is COVID wreaking havoc on education right now? Yes, COVID is real and affecting people all over the world. I'm so grateful vaccines are becoming more readily available. Dave and I are both getting our first vaccines this week. But it will be awhile, I am guessing, before school looks the way some critics think it should look.
How about if we support teachers and educational leaders instead of criticizing them?
How about if we focus on solutions rather than being constant naysayers?
How about if we use appropriate language and words on social media instead of calling one group of people horrible names just because they might not believe the same things we do?
How about if we model for the children growing up right now how to have civil discussions without using foul language?
For me and my house, we will choose to eliminate any posts on social media that use foul language (I always try to remind people that using such language simply shows a lack of vocabulary----of all the words in the English language, you still revert to cursing?), and I will forever remind my connections that we are trying to do the right thing and stay positive about solutions.