Opinion
Dear Teachers, You're Our Country's Greatest Hope Right Now
-Cemile Bingol/iStock/Getty Images Plus

While many of us are well into what is clearly an unprecedented academic year, I just want to say thank you to you-our nation's teachers, especially those who are giving 110 percent every day. Not only is your work and dedication vital to our children, schools, and communities, but it is also central to the progress of our society, especially during these particularly challenging times. You have always been at the forefront of shaping the next generation and you have always been there when we-the country-have needed you the most.

As we settle into this bumpy academic year, we recognize the uncertainty facing everyone, especially teachers. We recognize that you are spending countless hours collaborating and planning with your colleagues. We see the 12-hour days and the evening and weekend meetings. We share your concern for students who struggle with broadband connectivity during an online class-or with connecting at all. We know you are probably worried about making mistakes, which are inevitable right now. We understand the challenge for you to learn and relearn new curricula, programs, and assessment approaches. All this while you are still expected to be fully present, even through a screen.

We see the high stakes involved with teaching at this moment, even when you have lives to live, just like the rest of us. Some of you have school-aged children of your own, and you are making sure they are logged on and ready to learn each day. Some of you are caregivers for your own parents or other family members. Many of you have set up your homes with classroom spaces to teach from home. You are concerned about COVID-19 and, like all of us, prioritizing your own and your family's health and safety. You are doing your best under extraordinary circumstances, and we recognize your commitment.

In many ways, however, this is nothing new. As teachers, you have always stepped up. When students needed safety, you provided it. When students needed snacks or school supplies, you provided them. When students needed mentorship, you provided it. When students needed academic engagement, you provided it. Many of you have upheld this commitment to service while teaching in schools with significant resource inequities and in communities facing intergenerational social inequalities. Now, during a pandemic, you have once again stepped up, albeit in different ways. By providing a space of stability, security, and safety, you are helping us collectively heal, learn, and persist.

Will this rest of the year hold challenges? Yes. Will those challenges be the same as they would be for traditional in-person instruction? Probably not. There will be challenges with technology, as the internet connection inevitably gets interrupted at some point. Parents will become frustrated; students may be confused; you may be disappointed. And, beyond teaching and learning, we know many families who were struggling prior to the pandemic are still struggling during the pandemic. You will continue to face those challenges as well. We know that no classroom experience-whether traditional and in person-is ever "typical" but rather inherently dynamic.

For all of these reasons, you-our nation's teachers-need our support. You are providing structure. You are providing consistency. You are providing an opportunity for our children to engage with their teachers and peers. You are providing opportunities to learn. You are reinforcing many of the basic skills that are necessary to be successful in school. Rather than asking what learning is lost during these times, we should be asking a different set of questions: In what ways are teachers thriving? How are teachers being creative? What policies, practices, and support systems have leaders put in place to make sure that you and your students flourish? What can others learn from you?

Our country's scientists are taking care of the science. Our medical professionals are taking care of our health. Our first responders are taking care of our safety. Our essential people are taking care of the essentials. Similarly, our teachers are teaching our children. It is time for us to support you-time to trust your professionalism and commitment and time to recognize the work behind your personal and professional efforts to excel for our students every single day in less than desirable circumstances.

While the teaching and learning experience will be different for the foreseeable future, the service that you are providing to our children, families, and communities during these challenging times is, indeed, recognized and appreciated. For those of you who are engaging and affirming your students, and supporting families, you are providing the hope that we all need right now.


Louie F. Rodriguez is the interim dean, a professor, and the Bank of America Chair in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Practice in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. His research examines issues of equity, student voice, and community excellence in urban schools and communities.

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