I have survivor guilt.
In the 2019-2020 school year, I accepted a position as a health and safety coordinator at a school district to lighten my work load while I started a doctoral program for educational leadership. Yes, the first half of the year was a refreshing break from the workload in my classroom. And then the pandemic hit. Somehow being a health and safety coordinator who specialized in hazardous waste disposal and active shooter training now qualified me to be the expert on coronavirus outbreaks in my district. Needless-to-say the job went from a part-time to a more than full-time position almost overnight.
While this position let me to experience one of the steepest learning curves of my life, there was a lot of forgiveness for me in my role. I politely explained to people that while I have degrees in biology and chemistry, almost no one was prepared or qualified to become an overnight expert in the ever-changing public health regulations that our district was confronted with. It seemed like people were okay with me asking for their patience and grace. In the year and a half that I held the position, I rarely received critical scrutiny for the job I did and many teachers and administrators actually praised me for my work. The most ridiculous part of that experience was that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I made countless revisions to my statements, and regularly flip flopped our district's policies following state and county guidance.
So why was I given so much grace? And particularly, why aren't our classroom educators provided with the same level of forgiveness? This is a devastating social commentary on the way society views educators, specifically our classroom teachers. Politicians, public health workers, county and state leaders were all provided with the leniency to perform their jobs through the pandemic with limited public scrutiny. Yet teachers were immediately under the public eye. Parents and other stakeholders jumped to question instructional strategies, and were eager to post on social media about the lack of effort invested by some teachers.
I cannot tell you how much that hurts my soul.
Not only was it challenging to teach during the rapid transition to online learning in early 2020, but it has only become even more difficult to teach as the pandemic continues on. Between learning loss and the disruption of the school year with days or weeks at home, students are still struggling to get back into the routine of school. Teachers are exhausted and burnt out and those who remain in the profession are not provided with the opportunity to take personal time because of the shortage of substitutes. And because of this shortage, they are covering classes and substituting during their planning periods which leads to increased exhaustion and the cycle continues.
So that leads me back to the survivor guilt that I've been feeling. As an educator who has not been a classroom teacher during the pandemic, I have two thoughts:
So, classroom teachers, thank you for your continued perseverance through this challenging time in education. What is it you need? How can I help be a voice for you?
With over a decade of experience as an educator, I want to share some of the best practices that I've discovered for bringing the real world into the classroom.