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A thank you note to teachers

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

It’s been about a month since we started remote learning, and while families have concerns that run the gamut of modem speed to return-to-campus safety protocols, one issue that’s without question: Teachers are heroes.

I know most parents are thinking, “duh,” but there’s been questions raised about workload or time spent teaching. Liv Finne, director of the center for education at the Washington Policy Center, recently said teachers are getting full-time pay for part-time work.

“So, you see, the amount of time that is being required of teachers to work has been cut considerably now,” Finne said.

Remember the word “required.”

Finne went on to explain that because of renegotiated contracts in some districts, high school teachers, for example, are working eight fewer hours per week. However, they’re still making the same money.

Big deal. They should have made more to begin with. Not only that, ask a parent working full-time at home with two kids on laptops 10 feet away how much they’d pay a teacher to come take those kids away to learn for six hours. Additionally, ask that parent how much less time they’re working now and why they’re still making the same amount.

Bottom line: Sometimes there are bad teachers who don’t go the extra mile. It’s like when you have a bad employee or a bad co-worker. ‘Tis life. My kid has complained about a bad teacher. You know what the answer is? “Get used to it. We all get bad bosses sometimes. Go do your homework,” (plus some other things you mumble or say in your head).

Overwhelmingly, teachers are going above and beyond right now. If teaching 25 germy kids with attitudes about adding fractions isn’t a calling, then they wouldn’t be there.

Here’s what I know: A high school teacher is currently cleaning out her portable that was originally the music class. Her husband can’t help her haul out the three extra bookshelves and extra desks left behind because of COVID-19 precautions. So she’s been there every weekend since mid-September. Her husband is actually a PE teacher who works on perfecting his videos on Saturdays and Sundays because weeknights are spent helping his two kids learn.

An elementary school teacher is in her classroom every day putting together bins of school work that parents pick up every two weeks. They drop off the completed bins full of work for her to grade. She believes second graders need physical workbooks and paper to learn.

A first-grade teacher is dropping off and picking up artwork every month to create kids’ memory books for the year.

Another high school teacher spends Sunday mornings before her kids wake up (way too early, I might add) to do additional on-demand videos that explain the literature they’re reading. She also dresses up and uses props.

A fifth-grade teacher spends Seahawks games grading work.

None of the above is “required.” They’re doing it because they know kids need it. They need them to be 100% every day. They know some of these kids have parents who are not home during the day. They know they might be the only smiling face that kid sees all day.

Following the Finne story, we received a handful of emails from angry teachers. And rightfully so. Here are excerpts from three:

The article you published recently attacking teachers for working halftime and getting paid the same is grossly inaccurate. I teach live with my students for four hours a day and work many hours and weekends outside my normal hours. As does every teacher I know.

The unique educational setting that the pandemic is making necessary requires teachers to spend MORE hours adjusting lesson plans, learning to effectively use new technology, learning to teach students AND parents to effectively use technology, all while remaining focused on providing students with learning experiences that are engaging and challenging but accessible while at a distance from their teachers. 

As a fourth grade general education teacher in Seattle, I’m working between 65-80 hours a week to meet the minimum responsibilities of my job. I am beyond technology literate, I’m currently halfway through a Master’s in Education in Learning and Technology and have received several Excellence Awards for my work. Can you imagine being 60 years old and trying to create the same lessons that take me 2-3 hours?

Teachers deserve our respect. Even if you don’t have kids, you can appreciate them trying to educate the weird kid next door who may never graduate and could live next door FOREVER. Their job is to educate children so they can grow up into functioning adults. They’re part of the team, even if they don’t get it right every day.

I’ll end this with extra praise cherry picked from a Facebook group of moms and my own run-ins. If you know a teacher, and you likely do, drop a line of encouragement or gratitude. But spell check it first.

“I don’t know how teachers do it.” – Grandma helping with the kids (don’t worry, she’s in the bubble)

“I have so much more respect for teachers.” – Heard while riding my bike past a driveway birthday party

“I know the transition is hard for everyone and there are good and bad days, but I am really thankful for all the work our teachers are doing to engage our children!” – mom on Facebook

“My kiddo’s 2nd grade teacher at ___  is AMAZING. Today they did “zoom lunch” and everyone logged on with their lunches and snacks. Cutest thing ever.” – mom on Facebook

“Mrs. E___ at ___ is crushing it! My 5th grader has been so much happier since school started. And I’ve been able to focus on my work, knowing she is engaged in her class. Win-Win.” – mom on Facebook

“The teachers are doing an amazing job!!!!” – mom on Facebook

“I am so impressed with my kids’ teachers too … It has been great for us!!” – mom on Facebook

“Ms. M___  at ___ (3rd) is ahhhhmazing. She is so good at communicating and making connections with each student. I already love her. So does my daughter.” – mom on Facebook

“My son had her last year. She is AMAZING. She never let up all last year and all summer. We love her.” – mom on Facebook

“We are loving our new teachers at ___ and ___ too!” – mom on Facebook

“I had 2 Zoom meetings today and I am SO impressed with my children’s teachers and their care. They were wonderful, kind and fun!! WE CAN DO THIS!!” – mom on Facebook

“Teachers and staff are working so hard to fly this plane that no one imagined months ago! A compliment or Thank You can go a long way right now! I am so thankful for the staff and teachers teaching my 2 kids.” – mom on Facebook

“I have been blown away by the professionalism, care, support, and positive energy that our two teachers have brought. We already feel so loved and taken care of!” – mom on Facebook
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