I’m writing this letter on World Teacher’s Day to congratulate you. Have you taken a moment to realize how far you’ve come this year? It’s not been easy, I know, but you should be proud of yourself for accomplishing everything you have in this time of suffering and hardship.
I’m honored to be one of you.
Teachers all around have had to reinvent themselves to cope with the demands of a changing world. And, to make matters worse, it was completely unannounced. Like a plot twist that we see in the movies, which will cause the viewers to gasp, take a deep breath and then go speechless. We were not prepared at all to transition to remote teaching. As a matter of fact, the monumental undertaking it represented has affected us, our loved ones, and society in ways we don’t fully understand.
It’s only natural.
After all, teachers have a pivotal role in society. More so than ever when families are working like never before and kids need to be taken care of and a place to stay while their parents/caregivers are out. Think of how amazingly difficult our task as teachers is. Nurturing a positive teaching/learning experience to billions of students worldwide – who are unique – so that they can grow up to be functional adults who fit in the job market is a huge challenge that we face on a daily basis.
But we haven’t stopped.
We never did stop. We kept going, learning new skills and strategies, burning the midnight oil to plan our lessons and find materials for the following day, crying, suffering and thinking of giving up many times. But it didn’t stop us. Nevertheless, millions have lost their jobs because of school closures and we wondered when that was going to reach us. We’ve worked through pain, loss, suffering, criticism, and exhaustion just to make sure our students were receiving some kind of education.
However, we’re not superheroes.
Superheroes are idealized humans who embody core values we strive to have. They are not real. We are real. We are human beings who bleed. We get scared sometimes. We don’t possess superhuman strength or magical powers. We need to work to pay our bills, care for our families and buy food. We hurt when people attack us. We are far from perfect. We long for and need empathy, compassion, love, and respect. We want our work to be valued.
And our work is vital.
In this time of social media, fake news propagation, and the empowerment of bigots, idiots, and authoritarians, our only hope lies in education. We must go beyond our subjects and come together as a whole community (parents, students, school managers, policymakers) to educate the next generations so that they can think critically about what they see and hear, so that they can empathize with those who are different from them, so that they can pursue their goals in life as ethical citizens.
I know this might be a lot to ask.
We already have to work against the odds, without support, under pressure, physical and psychological stress. We don’t always get the recognition we deserve and we’ve never worked so hard in our entire lives. I know it’s a lot to ask.
But who else can do it if not us?
We are changemakers. We can help that little kid in the corner blossom. We can make that little girl who never speaks feel special and dream about becoming whatever she wants to become. We can welcome that little boy who has trouble fitting in and make him realize that he is part of our group. We can make our students reflect and understand that value of education.
We need to prepare ourselves.
As teachers we must never stop learning. We need to understand our job, our subject, our students, and everything else directly and indirectly related to the school ecosystem. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’d like you to own your craft and step up against unfounded interferences in your work. I want you to be as equipped as possible to deal with whatever situation presents itself, no matter what. I want you to be a valued professional who is treated with respect.
We have a long way to go.
I know. And not all of it is up to us. We live in a structure that replicates certain things that impact new generations of teachers. That’s precisely why our job is much more related to long-term goals than anything else. We need to plant the seed, nurture the environment and make sure we take care of these little plants as they grow big and strong.
Let’s listen to educators/teachers who came before us.
I will end this letter with a message from our teacher friends. Amazing educators who struggled with their own challenges in their time and left us a rich legacy we need to preserve. I truly hope that their message helps you stand tall and realize that even though you’re not a superhero, your job is needed more than ever and at least one kid in one class looks up to you. That kid will accomplish amazing things because of you.
Never forget that.