I have a lot of friends who are teachers. I used to be one myself, for many, many years, and I loved it. But there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by in the last six months that I haven’t thanked my lucky stars that I’m not teaching during this pandemic.
Can you imagine what they are going through? The sudden one-day-everything-is-normal to the next-day-no-more-kids. Then the instant switch to online education. No preparation. No training. No real plan. Just, let’s try to educate these kids and hope this virus goes away soon.
Now, things are a little less confusing, but not by much. Now there are kids at home learning online, kids in the classroom, hybrid models, and block scheduling, and somehow, the teachers must figure out how to do it all. I’ve dedicated a lot of print space to how the rest of us can better handle Covid, but what about our teachers? How can we support them during this crazy time?
I spoke with Betsy De Vega, founder and Head of School at the KnILE Center in Richmond. She had some great reminders about what teachers are going through and how we can help them with the change in school structure.
“The best way to support teachers is to be flexible, patient and have open lines of communication.” De Vega feels that this is a challenging year for those in education, not just academically, but physically, as everyone works to fight contagion. Teachers are dedicated to helping their students, and have been thrown into scenarios they aren’t accustomed to. “They are concerned for your safety and your health, but also the health and well-being of their own families,” she said.
She also reminded us all to “be respectful of their time“. They love your children and are working so hard to juggle everything, but let’s remember that they have their own families as well. Many teachers are not only working hard to ensure your children are learning and prepared for the future, but they are also going home and doing the same thing with their own children.”
And although everyone understands the situation surrounding the pandemic, De Vega sent the gentle reminder that it’s not the teacher’s fault that it’s happening.
The resounding message as I talked to one educator after another is this:
Teachers truly want what’s best for each child and so many decisions are out of their control.
For example, online learning platforms are not determined by teachers, but are dictated by the district. Teachers are trying to meet the needs of individual students while staying within the confines of the district structure.
As one administrator put it, “Imagine building an airplane, while trying to fly it…in front of an audience.”
So how can you help? Remember that technological glitches are just as frustrating for teachers as they are for parents. The teacher is a player on the field, just as students and parents are. They didn’t design the field and they’re not responsible for the ditches and the occasional mud puddle. So be careful not to direct your frustration to the people who are only trying to help and have no control over the platform.
And really, it’s the simple things that seem to mean the most to teachers. One Fort Bend ISD teacher remarked, “I’ve gotten the kindest messages from parents that mean the world to a worn out teacher who wonders how much difference she’s making over a computer screen. We work so hard every day, and any teacher worth her salt is constantly reflecting. So having a parent reflect positivity and appreciation for the work and heart you put in with a note or a special snack (or even a cute school supply) helps fuel a teacher’s fire.”
One area parents might not have considered as a way to develop a strong partnership with teachers is to support your kids in helping them build independence. Let them make mistakes so the teacher can accurately assess and support them. Don’t fall into the trap of taking over assignments or asserting your help on a child who understands the concepts and is capable of doing the work on his own. It’s easy to do when the kids are sitting right next to you, but resist the urge. Teachers are counting on accurate assessments of your kids’ abilities.
We truly are all in this together. Create a partnership with your kids’ teachers and offer your support and patience to the process, and I can guarantee, everyone will be happier.