Six years ago, I wrote a flowery worded letter in genuine thanks for all your hard work and efforts. This year instead of expressing gratitude, I am issuing an apology.
See in a pandemic, people are supposed to take their time to analyze how we can fix the problems that got us here. The adults had a whole year to look at inequity, injustice, our petty political in-fighting, our collective pain but instead we used your classrooms as a distraction to keep us from tackling these issues.
Last year, when kids came home, many revelations emerged. After months of cabin fever and social unrest, some parents learned that their kids are jerks, others learned that their kids are not really prepared (by them) for school, others learned that the curriculum they voted for is inadequate for 21st century survival, and others learned that what we call school is what our leaders see as childcare. I’m sorry that teachers are only essential to getting parents back into their miserable commutes, back at their desks, and back into the economy.
Parents, media, and politicians use the classroom as their battleground. Instead of addressing the root of inequity we yelled “learning loss”. Instead of tackling extreme partisanship we somehow embraced this sickness as normal. Soon our collective parental exhaustion evolved into angst. Parents allowed themselves to be manipulated into believing that our villains were the educators on the screen attempting order and normalcy under extraordinary conditions. No matter what side of the school open or close debate you stood on, in many ways it all came down to teachers being the scapegoats for our inability to rise to the occasion and collectively reimagine safe, equitable learning experiences for all kids… and I’m sorry.
We keep pouring more into your laps and you keep adjusting and adapting for our children and for what? Because you’re professional. Because you love what you do. Because you believe that teaching kids will change the future… and I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you need sites that help you raise money for resources and supplies that should be provided through your district. I’m sorry that there’s this expectation that you become EVERYTHING for kids with the assumption that you never burn out. I’m sorry that parents don’t volunteer in the classroom, or join the PTA, and then have no clue about pedagogy, best practices, or how school systems operate but have so much to say about the dysfunction that they have the power to change with votes and community engagement.
I’m sorry that your craft, your profession, and your trade are trivialized to the point where anyone thinks that they could teach just because they were once in a classroom. These people are mistaken. Teaching requires so much more than forcing facts on kids who have smartphones with the entire world’s knowledge in their pocket. Teaching requires so much more than preparing kids to take tests that further perpetuate the inequities present in their zip codes. Teaching requires so much more than self sacrificing yourself at the altar of “doing it for the children”.
Six years ago, I thanked you for your service:
“I say this with the utmost sincerity and openness now as a parent and as a partner in my child's learning. We fail you guys. Sometimes we get upset. Sometimes we accuse you of not doing your best. Believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of that conversation. Forgive those of us who falsely accuse you. Some of us believe that enabling our children is advocacy when it's not. No hard feelings. We think we know what's best because we made this person. We see them everyday but in all actuality it's those of you who closely observe our kids and see that they are actually capable of so much more than even we their parents could know. Growth takes time. Keep believing in us. Keep pushing us. Parents can learn too.”... I still mean every word. Parents can learn to be better allies and better advocates in their child’s K12 experience.
Six years ago, I said I knew you wouldn’t take the summer off because you’ll immerse yourself in professional learning experiences. This year I beg that you rest. Don’t spend all summer on Zoom. Yes, learn something new and lean into anti-racist, equity, or justice centered professional development but make sure you go out and do something you love, be with your family, speak with your creator, go to the doctor. It’s insane for you to think that one more webinar will equip you to solve the symptoms of a broken system.
Six years ago, I thanked you. I had a vision that “maybe one day we will begin to realize that your contributions are essential to the survival of our society.... More than bankers or doctors or talking heads or celebrities or politicians... You once made these people think about the possibility of their own future selves. That means something...”
This year I’m sending you a sincere apology for this nightmare of a year. Education is not perfect. Our kids aren’t perfect. Parents aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect. Therefore it is my hope that we can all see value in each other as equally responsible partners on every child’s learning journey.
Thanks for keeping hope from dying. Thanks for all you do.
An imperfect and appreciative parent-learner
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.