We are aware there are plenty of shortages at the moment including teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria cooks, support staff. And add in a tremendous need for counselors, nurses, social workers, psychologists.
Do you see that happening? I hope so! What better use of funding than supporting our traumatized children and staff. Let’s also remember there are probably no classroom volunteers and likely a shortage of paras. That puts a huge burden on teachers.
And let’s consider administrators, the tough decisions being made by principals and superintendents. I thought I had a challenging situation, where I was, while Principal, but nothing like this. It’s also time to take a look at School Boards and their significant role in what happens. Hopefully, administrators and teachers are actively seeking out Board Members to share needs and requests. Better yet, I’d love to see educators running to be on School Boards, then we’ll really see changes in favor of what teachers know to be true. Their everyday action research is meaningful and powerful. Power and politics right now are run amok, in my opinion and I hope to see that change in the short term.
School Principals, Assistant principals. This is leadership where it really counts. How admirable watching these Captains right their ships with laser-like focus. It matters. Leadership right now, in this defining moment puts us on the cusp of a brave new educational world, future is now, really. It’s imperative that school leadership is shared, with teachers’ opinions counting. If there was ever a time for autonomy, it’s right now. I recognize teachers can’t take on one more thing, but having a voice in what happens at school is worth that effort.
And Tik Tok Trends, Unlawful and Dangerous, to Deal With.
After I finished my draft of this article, I caught a really sickening article in my newsfeed. Written by Alia Wong, in USA Today: Her headline is ‘Devious licks’ asks students to’ smack a staff member.’ “The nation’s teachers are feeling burnt out.”
“Educators across the country are already overwhelmed with the chaos that is teaching during a pandemic. As if that weren’t enough, now they’re contending with a different kind of chaos: a TikTok trend that encourages students to cause havoc on campus. This month, that havoc could reach a new level, resulting in physical violence against teachers and other school employees. And the prospect has already-demoralized educators increasingly worried about the sustainability of their profession as it stands.”
In September, its inaugural month, the so-called “devious licks” trend challenged students to steal and vandalize school property…. This month’s challenge is to “smack a staff member.” Challenges for subsequent months range from “mess up school signs” and “flip off the front office” to kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school and more, I prefer not to repeat here. Take a look at the article. I’m really overwhelmed with the idea that has been out of school for so long, rather than being elated to be back, in some instances, school culture and sense of belonging have really taken a beating. This is just unreal to me. Worth a school conversation.
Challenging Times, Extraordinary Opportunities
I’ve been saying since March ’20, “Challenging Times, Extraordinary Opportunities”. But at this time, I’m just not sure how many teachers even had the opportunity to be heard as collective voices what they think needs to happen to reach and teach all children.
Who were the deciders to leave schools and teachers so unprepared to feel safe, physically, mentally, and emotionally?
I’m not blaming her, just flummoxed how we all got to this state of unknowns, treading water, wading in, then wham caught in an undertow sucking life out, while still watching for that lighthouse beam to cast a light of okay now.
Besides obvious concerns about all children, beyond basic Maslow needs of shelter, clothing, and food, do students finally have internet access and an actual iPad or Chromebook? Are kids still sitting in parking lots to get a signal? Or are most of those kids back in the schoolhouse, face to face, with its own challenges? My first and most basic question is simply where are all the kids? And for those back in the schoolhouse, whether hybrid, remote, in person, or variation on a theme, there are some definite commonalities. All is not well and teachers are not ok. Teaching today is much different than pre-pandemic. We certainly know that. So many teachers are making it all look easy because that’s what teachers always do. Take things in stride, until snap! There’s a breaking point and we are just scotch taping broken rubber bands and reusing old bandaids.
I listened to teachers from a worldwide perspective and it sounds about the same, which I found interesting, but not surprising. Shortages. Shortages. Covering classes, doubling up, transient rates skyrocketing. There’s no way to actually know the numbers of in and out kids, MIA kids. We know SEL (Social-emotional learning) and trauma-informed teaching are where schools are focused, yet it appears mandates, new programs, shaky curricula are big and bold as ever, maybe more so.
How is there time to really meet children where they are, students who have lost relatives or friends already to this virus, these kids need nurturing and joy far more than banging out another test with a number two pencil? Add to it, a somewhat fierce skirmish or attack on reading programs, new legislation silencing Critical Race theory instruction, good grief, no wonder teachers are already exhausted.
Yet, because I am an optimist by nature and so are most teachers, we go on, cheering one another to the finish line, propping each other up. By remembering why we wanted to be teachers in the first place and seeing our children so needing us, we persevere, our passion, purpose, drive, and tenacity creating miracles.
School started year three of weirdness and sadness, with hopeful pops. Schoolhouse life went on as before. Students are being tested. Teachers are evaluated. These pretending things are normal and we can just fill these so-called gaps, “learning loss” and recovery by what arbitrary standards? Who decided this? Not teachers; pretty positive about that. What should we be teaching now?
For me, crumbling with despair, unsure how to help, it started with this teacher on Twitter last weekend. “I gave up. On leave now until I can find my sanity. This year has been so hard and I just can’t handle it anymore. Please keep teachers in your prayers. We are hurt and broken.”
Here’s a bit of what led up to that:
“New to teaching autism and on the struggle bus. Was told I needed to incorporate yoga into my class. What? No supplies were provided. Adding to the list, this week has been overwhelming.”
“Was told I needed to cover my windows with black paper. Bought $50 worth of window clings so I could obscure the view but not block light. Was told I need to be more like the teacher I replaced….Feeling so dejected.”
“New school year. New position. Admin. gunning for me. Why do teachers have to deal with all of this?”
So, finally, this teacher packed her suitcase filled with dreams and walked out her classroom door. Why didn’t she feel supported in this, of all times of time?
There are more responses on the post. By the way, I didn’t research this topic, nor did I do any sort of aggregated data. I just happened to ask some people, very randomly. “Why are teachers leaving?” What can we do? There are definitely more stories and more questions than answers. We’ll have to stay watchful in our optimistic belief it’s early enough to turn things around. Some common insights do stand out by the end of reading these particular anecdotes. And no, I don’t have all the answers, probably more questions.
Do you ever feel like we are simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Sometimes now I wonder. But I have hope and optimism. For example, and finally, President Biden said this: “I can’t believe this has to be said, but a teacher shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than a hedge fund manager.” At least about a living wage, that’s a start. I’m waiting for a genuine, determined conversation on how to make schools safer, lower class size, pay teachers so they don’t need side hustles, and above all, remember school is a home for head, heart, and soul. By professionalizing education as it truly is, and granting autonomy to a legion of dedicated teachers, that’s the miracle I’m waiting for.
We’re all still here. This is what it’s all about. Legacy. A strong sense of purpose and passion drives us to be the best possible teachers for students in our care. And that’s all that can be asked. Burning out teachers does not make for a truly warm-hearted school experience for students desperately needing safety, security, and a top-notch education. Despite all obstacles, that’s what teachers do, no matter what. But even helpers need help sometimes, and that time is now.
Go to Rita’s post on BAMRadioNetwork to read more of the answers and questions HERE.
Like Rita says “Let’s Get Real” and breathe…
How to contact Rita
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- Books: Reading Champions! Teaching Reading Made Easy, Stories From a Teacher’s Heart, Reading Champs
- Podcast: ”Let’s Get Real” Bam Weekly Podcast
Interested in checking out more of the Rethinking Learning reflections and podcasts, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below, or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/
For more information about Barbara’s book, Define Your WHY, go to this page or click on the new image of the book for resources, questions, and links.