You often don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Or you don’t fully realize the value of something that you’ve taken for granted.
It took a series of teacher strikes in 2018 for the public to recognize and acknowledge the severe and chronic lack of classroom resources for students and teachers. During this painful coronavirus pandemic, the public is seeing in real time the amazing and heroic work that nurses and other healthcare workers are performing during these unbelievably stressful times.
The fact is that teachers and nurses have always been heroes in their fields — doing whatever it takes to make sure that their students and their patients thrive and survive. Yet let’s be honest; they don’t get the appreciation they deserve during “normal” times. As one example, both sets of professionals have voiced a similar problem — overcrowded classrooms and unsafe nurse-to-patient staffing levels. Both problems adversely affect students and patients, respectively, but too often management tunes out reports from the front lines and little to nothing is done to improve the conditions. Educators and healthcare professionals know their situations better than anyone and need to be heard and respected year-round.
National Teacher Appreciation Week, is officially May 4-8, though it shouldn’t take a “Hallmark” holiday to appreciate the work that educators do every week of the year.
Today, people are seeing teachers’ ingenuity and flexibility to make sure kids are educated while school buildings are closed. Online distance learning has substituted for in-class instruction. But in Washington, D.C., shockingly, the District of Columbia Public Schools didn’t take into consideration the fact that economic circumstances prevent up to half of DCPS families from affording a laptop or access to the internet. Incredibly, DCPS has more than 16,000 laptops in storage for testing purposes but didn’t fully distribute them for continuing learning during the pandemic. Even once they began distribution, it was only after unrelenting pressure from teachers and the community.
To fill the void, the Washington Teachers’ Union initiated a partnership with Fox 5 Plus, WDCA-TV, to present daily lessons on TV for all grade groups. Of course, they’re not as comprehensive as online instruction, but they follow DCPS curriculum and are lively and engaging. The purpose is to make sure that learning doesn’t stop for any child, no matter their economic circumstances.
More than a dozen DCPS teachers — and even DCPS librarians during National Library Week — are recording these lessons for TV and doing it on their own time (as DCPS requires) out of a feeling of personal obligation to make sure that all kids get educated.
The online and TV lessons provide a window for the public into the caliber of teachers our children are lucky to have. They know their subject matter well and present their lessons with enthusiasm and smart examples and applications to capture the essence of the subject and students’ imagination.
The next time you have a chance, thank a teacher for what they do. It especially would be appreciated if the acknowledgment didn’t just come during this special week, but another time or two throughout the year. They deserve it.
Elizabeth Davis is president of the Washington Teachers’ Union.