Friday, November 20, 2020

A Word of Recognition and Encouragement for Teachers

 This is from a social media post by Dr. Nathan Finn, former Professor of Historical Theology and Spiritual Formation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC and currently Provost and Dean of the Faculty at North Greenville University in Greer, SC.  

The teachers around you are anxious, weary, and exhausted. I’m talking about teachers at every level and in every type of school, whether 3rd grade or high school English or college Chemistry. Public school or private school. Religious school or non-sectarian school. All of them. These men and women almost certainly became teachers because they love students (of whatever age and stage) and want to make an impact in students’ lives through the classroom. They probably love their vocation and find significant satisfaction in being a teacher. But the last nine months has probably been the most difficult period in their career--even if they’ve been teaching for decades.
Teachers have been endlessly flexible in recent months. Many have adapted to various technologies to enable them to teach at least some students remotely, rarely with an ideal level of institutional investment in resources and training to help in this transition. Many have been forced to roll with scheduling or attendance changes, often with little advance warning from decision-markers. Even in cases where teachers have been able to teach mostly in-person, they have often endured quasi-isolation from their colleagues and their students. In many cases teachers have had to help “police” student conformity to protocols about face coverings, social distancing, quarantines, etc. Or, they have been anxious because students have refused to follow such protocols, potentially endangering those around them.
Decision-making has been more “top-down” than is normal in education. (Especially in higher education.) Budgets that were already probably too tight have been further cut. Needed positions have been tabled or eliminated. In many places, good teachers have lost their jobs because of financial realities. In other situations, teachers have left the vocation they once loved voluntarily because they no longer find it to be satisfying. Like everyone, teachers have opinions about how regions, communities, or particular institutions respond to the pandemic. And, like everyone, teachers may not agree with how their particular institution (school board, university system, school) has responded.
Teachers are also real people outside the hours of the school day. Many are married, so they may well be dealing with pandemic-related anxieties connected to their spouse’s job. Many are parents. This means they not only navigate the complications to their own teaching, but they have to navigate the complications affecting their own children’s education. Many are themselves adult children or have other close bonds with older loved ones who are in high-risk categories should they become infected. And many teachers themselves might be in one or more high-risk categories. Also, like everyone else teachers are anxious about all the other stuff: the economy, politics, etc.
What I don’t want to convey is that teachers are the only folks who are struggling with 2020. Everybody is struggling and every profession has is unique complications. What I do want to remind you of is that teachers play a unique and critically important role in our society. Their job is really important all the time and really difficult much of the time. And this year has been especially hard. This fall has been especially hard. Today is especially hard. So encourage the teachers around you. Pray for the teachers around you. Find tangible ways to support the teachers around you.
And for those of you reading this who are teachers: thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you are doing to make the best of a really difficult time. Hang in there. Please don’t give up. We all need you. God bless you.

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