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Let’s Hear it for Teachers: Three New R’s

May 16, 2021

Another Way for week of May 7, 2021

(Editor’s Note: Last in an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It.”)

The head principal from a local high school spoke at our Lions Club in March sharing how their school was doing amidst the pandemic. I’ve written several times about the experiences of my own small grandsons in virtual learning, but it was extremely moving to hear about the new realities that have faced our teachers and administrators across North America and around the world. Perhaps there have been three new R’s added for education: Revolutionary, Resilience and R’extraordinary.

Head principal at Broadway High School, Donna Abernathy, said that last fall she shared a quote with staff from “teachergoals” twitter page: “The upcoming school year might be one of the toughest ever to be an educator. It might also be the most revolutionary year ever. Mindset will be critical.” They found this to be true, admitting there were tears, stress, frustration, many long hours, angry parents, and pivoting in their planning. “We pivoted approximately 422 times in the course of the year” she jested. Her frequent response when someone raised a new issue was, “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.”

I’m thinking teachers, administrators, parents and students have all had a huge and careful climb this year.

When you think about everything our schools, administrators, and teachers have endured, we can better empathize with what children in war zones have experienced—no schooling for sometimes years on end. I know parents who pondered whether the experience was adversely affecting their kids’ futures. Would their children fall behind on college choices, job opportunities? I think the key word here though is the R word: Resilience.

Staff and students showed resilience as they came up with new ways to present theater, concerts, graduations, parades. The principal noted that kids have learned to be self-advocates, speaking up, asking questions, developing skills in managing schedules, and getting things done. There have obviously been drawbacks and health concerns for some including an increase in eating disorders and unstable mental health. Some have seen grades plummet in the less structured atmosphere.

Managing bus transportation was also a huge challenge. Initially, buses could only have one child per seat, with an empty row in between. As parents juggled childcare options before and after school, it sometimes meant changing bus routes. Abernathy said, “This caused changes for other families’ assigned buses, routes, and pick up times.” Parents were encouraged to drive their students to school. On the tech side, some teachers got up at 5 a.m. to deliver print materials to students without good Internet access. And of course, if someone was identified as ill with covid, staff spent hours doing contact tracing which took “just an incredible amount of time,” Abernathy noted.

The room layout of classrooms changed dramatically for the first time in 100 years, from classrooms with straight rows of chairs and desks to triangular layouts. School custodians added duties of fogging buses every day, hourly wipe down of light switches, revamping air handlers and changing filters, installation of plexiglass in offices and other rooms. Traffic lines in hallways and steps were created with paint or stickers.

On the positive side, approximately 70 percent of students in our area recently returned to four-day schedules at schools, with others opting to continue “virtual only” classes. Schools in our county cooperated with teachers from other schools to provide the needed virtual (video) classes, either live or recorded.

But the kids who came back to actual classrooms, “are just so excited to be back in school,” Abernathy said, and willing to obey protocols, following traffic lines like “bosses.”

An outlet for many students, sports, added new challenges. Games or schedules could be cancelled at the last minute due to covid cropping up. Teachers and administrators had to turn into “mask police,” especially at sporting events. But the administrators are willing to play that role because “our kids need that outlet of sports” from their pandemic confinement and frustrations.

But perhaps the most outstanding gift of the greatly disrupted schooling she mentioned was “more compassionate kids.” That brought tears (and still does) to my eyes. They may have also learned not to take the privilege of going to school and friends and life itself for granted. What amazing side gifts. May these learnings last them a lifetime.

How have your local schools and students handled education challenges this year?

As a parent, how did you feel at the beginning of the year, and how do you feel now as we near the end of the school year (in most areas)?

If you are a teacher, what has been your experience?

Post on Facebook or send comments or stories to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Also a reminder that I’ve got a giveaway going on: Send your name to enter a drawing for one of two copies of my 1983 book, Working, Mothering, and other “Minor” Dilemmas. Please makes sure it is postmarked or emailed by May 22, 2021.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

2 Comments
  1. Our governor and mayor did a superb job of managing education in our state & city. Following protocols and CDC guidelines, they opened schools, physically, as soon as possible though most of the first semester was virtual or a hybrid combination of both: 2 days in school, 3 days digital delivery, to begin with.

    Now kids can choose either virtual or brick and mortar. The dual delivery is taking a huge toll on teachers. My son, teaching HS photography in both formats simultaneously, is suffering fatigue big time! Next year should be more normal. Great topic, Melodie.

  2. Glad Florida did well managing things. I think things were kind of hit or miss according to the county you were/are in here in Virginia. Locally, our schools tend to be smaller and people tend to know everyone (or more people), and cooperated beautifully, by and large, according to Dr. Abernathy.

    I can believe that teachers are so ready to move on … let’s hope and pray for “more normal.”

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