The Aftermath

Guest post by Teresa Lien @5liens

Opinions expressed are those of the guest blogger

The perfect storm hit the teaching field in March 2020. For awhile, it appeared the field was going to survive and thrive through the turmoil. Teachers were being hailed as heroes as they persevered through the changing environments determined to keep students connected to learning.

When the 2020-21 school year started, school districts faced a paradigm shift. As the months passed, it was evident teacher knowledge was not going to be systematically included in the structures being built. The collective wisdom of teachers were ignored and teacher voices were disregarded.

This was a colossal mistake and a missed opportunity. Although I was sitting on the sidelines newly retired (1983-2019), I had high hopes that teacher expertise was finally going to be able to seize the field. Teachers are the primary sources of knowing how to engage students in this current reality. I anticipated the value of teachers to soar and for teachers to be relied upon to design solutions for learning. Instead, the players who hold power took control with rare amounts of funding to make decisions and teacher judgement was widely rejected. This has clearly exposed how teachers are marginalized.

Not only is teacher experience minimized, they are not provided with the full extent of proper resources to do their work or respectfully compensated for the important work they do. There are a whole host of other inequities to list but the point is that school districts had a promising opportunity to elevate teacher expertise in the new normal of educating students.

We are living in the aftermath of the perfect storm. The teaching crisis has shattered schools and harmed student learning. The teaching field is in ruins. The cost to communities across this country is $8,000,000,000 annually.

For decades, the wake up calls have all gone unanswered. Perhaps the response to this wake up call is most insulting to teachers. The popular remedy has been to provide professional development on self-care to teachers. It is generally a “one size fits all” approach and offered when it’s convenient on the school calendar. It is disturbing when open resources are shared as links to reference in communications. This lacks effort or genuine interest in caring for teachers. The message it sends to teachers is that they have been remiss in their self-care and that’s why their job are stressing them out. Their jobs are stressing them out because of the insurmountable workloads and impossible working conditions. Does anyone else see the indignation of this? It’s not the teacher that needs fixing, it’s the system. Regardless of how much self-care they practice, teachers have to return to the preposterous and stressful conditions of teaching.              

Teachers have been pleading for changes to their working conditions and workloads for decades. Today’s teachers are fearless and bold. They will not be victims of a broken system. This generation will exercise their options. The question that remains is what will society do with a teaching apocalypse?

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