This is Teacher Appreciation Week, one of those weeks that at once seems deserved for those dedicated professionals who help shape the minds of our future business, social and political leaders, but also suggests that they need a special week. In reality, we should be thankful for their efforts every day. A single week is woefully inadequate.
This year, the week carries special significance, as school closures and stay-home orders prompted by the coronavirus tested the resilience and creativity of our professional teachers, but also threw many parents and other caregivers into service to help the teachers in the educational process.
The global COVID-19 pandemic took us all unawares; like everyone else, teachers and parents were unprepared for the unique and sudden demands the illness, and social restrictions, placed upon them.
Most schools were able to utilize online networks to maintain contact with most of their students, but the children still needed proctoring at home. Someone had to keep the students on task, and often provide the individual attention that many students need but teachers couldn’t provide through a computer.
We might never be able to fully appreciate the difficulties that both teachers and caregivers undertook in order to make remote learning possible. Certainly, many of them saw the need to buy computer equipment, and perhaps software, as well as subscribe to internet services in order to make online classrooms possible. It’s also likely that many cash-strapped families did their best to access the material, including perhaps viewing complex math or science equations, using the small screens on their smartphones when that was all they had.
We can’t entertain any illusions that the process was easy, or even successful, for every student. Some might have found it too hard to learn without the personal attention that teachers provide in the classroom. And many parents here along the border, limited by their own educational or language shortcomings, might have had to learn the subjects along with their students, just so they could help them understand concepts and complete assignments.
There’s no telling how many parents felt compelled to leave their jobs, sacrificing their income not just to help with their children’s studies, but to provide adult supervision that hadn’t been necessary when those children were off at school.
It has long been said that if the world were fair our teachers would be among the highest-paid members of our society. Unfortunately, public aversion to taxation will always place downward pressure on their compensation. Likewise, the value of the work provided by parents and caregivers has been calculated at hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — if they were paid.
This year, both professional teachers and those pressed into service at home have gone far beyond the expectations that normally are placed on their work. We could never offer adequate compensation for their efforts. But we pray they recognize the heartfelt gratitude that we all feel for their work to keep the educational process going even when so much of our society had shut down.