Dear Teachers: We Miss You
April 15, 2020
So many teachers are struggling to balance the needs of their students with those of their own children.
I shut off my laptop after what felt like the millionth Zoom call of the week and headed downstairs to switch “shifts” with my husband.
Jeff, a special education teacher, was sitting at our kitchen counter feeding our 8-month-old, who was trying to catapult out of his father’s arms while also hanging onto his bottle. Jesse is at that special age when all he wants to do is be mobile.
Our 7-year-old daughter, Carlin, was hanging onto her father’s leg trying to get his attention. Jeff was on a conference call with his team. They are special education teachers, counselors and administrators. They are also parents, sons and daughters, and spouses to first responders, delivery truck drivers and health-care workers. They are unsure of this new reality—fast tracking or crash-coursing into the world of distance learning and education technology—but they are encouraging each other, thanking each other, taking care to laugh a little.
This is the experience of so many educators around the country, as Matt Barnum so aptly illustrated in Chalkbeat. Judith Kafka, a professor of education policy at the City University of New York’s Baruch College perfectly summed it up for Barnum: “If you are home alone with your kids, and you’re also trying to meet your students’ needs, something’s got to give.”
Jeff, like many of the millions of teachers sent home amid widespread school closures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, wants so much to do a good job. But he and his peers are forced to make decisions each day, each minute about how to do best by their students while also giving their own children the attention they need.
His video-conference screen is filled with a mosaic of earnest faces, desperate to figure out how to best support students at a distance and under challenging circumstances.
When he called a parent later, I could hear his reassuring tone masking his own anxiety. “Whatever you need,” he promised. “Just reach out to me. We’re all here to help. We’ll figure this out together.”
These are all the things we’ve said to each other over the last few weeks, taking turns at this new game we play, “Whose turn is it to get the pep talk today?”
Teachers are incredibly important to students and it’s not always just for the knowledge they impart but those intangibles that our clients, like Amplify’s Larry Berger, point out about connection and the human aspects of this odd and often overwhelming experience. In Camden, New Jersey, KIPP teachers have found a way to make contact with their students. There and in towns around the country teachers are caravanning in their cars, alone but together, driving through the neighborhoods and the streets where their students live, honking, waving, hanging signs that say, “I miss you.”
We miss you too, dear teachers. More than you’ll ever know. Thank you for everything.