May 5, 2020
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and exhausted parents across the nation may have a better appreciation for teachers than ever before after coronavirus pandemic school closures pushed them to facilitate “school at home.”
Parents have had a hands-on experience in their children’s education this semester – sometimes becoming the teacher. In general, it’s been a steep learning curve with both positive and negative side effects for families.
And educators have had additional responsibilities that were not anticipated at the start of the academic year: video or audio recording lessons, learning Zoom or other communication platforms, moving all content online, creating packets, offering one-on-one outreach to students who have gone radio silent, and in some cases driving by neighborhoods to reassure students of their continued care and support.
But teacher appreciation is a welcome attitude even during a typical year, when educators are asked to take on a herculean load. They must teach, lesson prep, grade, manage behavior, complete professional development, understand the lives of students, and are often called to be responders on the front lines of a host of societal issues that are seen one-on-one in the classroom.
And next year when presumably classrooms reopen (or not), we can imagine a combination of all those factors: responsibilities listed above plus the fallout of the time lost this semester, with students having a range of needs even more varied than before.
As one who taught at a Utah public school with roughly 40 students per class, imagining the workload for our state’s teachers in the future is daunting. At the same time, the type of people who choose the profession and stick it out have a tenacity that other professionals do not always have.
Teaching has long been considered one of the most noble professions, but it wasn’t until 1980 that a day of recognition was officially set aside for teachers and not until 1985 that the national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) established a full week for teacher appreciation.
And it might turn out, when we look back, that it wasn’t until the 2020 coronavirus pandemic that those days turned into meaningful appreciation from the communities and families they serve.
Teacher Appreciation Week is a well-deserved moment of reflection on the important work that educators do – but it’s especially important this year. To educators across the nation, happy Teacher Appreciation Week.
Caring for children and families in vulnerable situations is an undoubted public priority, and everyone willing to provide good-faith help is needed.
The year 2021 has started fast and furious in the political space. Rioting at the U.S. Capitol and the banning of our president from certain big tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter have continued the national discussion about speech and ideas.
Ensuring that Utah civics education is adequate will take a statewide commitment from more than just the Legislature (and it’s usually better when it comes from more local decisionmakers), and it will demand that we avoid simplistic solutions about teachers or schools simply needing to “do better.”