Kelsey Langel: Distance learning takes a toll on teachers, too
When I became a teacher 13 years ago, I went in knowing that teachers and school staff are, generally, always fighting an uphill battle. There are days you can do no wrong and there are days nothing goes in your favor. When students graduate, we get praise for helping them get there, for supporting them along the way and inspiring them to be the best people they can be. Then there are the times we shoulder the negative — a frustrated parent, a student who is struggling to grasp a lesson, behavior issues out of our control.
Is all of this — the praise and the problems — deserved? Maybe, maybe not. I am blessed to know several families and parents who offer their understanding and support to educators despite frustrations they may have as they navigate distance Learning. I’m grateful for those that are able to see the inner-workings of this challenging situation and know there are guidelines and protocols and expectations beyond the school site and district levels.
Does it make those parents’ feelings of helplessness and desire to give the burden away any better? No, but it shows understanding and grace. So much is out of our control and our school staff, administration and district leaders are working harder than any of us ever have to serve all of our children. We are also dealing with frustrations and challenges of our own as we help our own children through distance learning, rework our budgets because our spouses aren’t working, or try to find some semblance of normalcy in all this, just like you. Thank you to the many parents and community members who see us. We see you, too.
On the other hand, I have never in my professional life been so disheartened by comments I’ve heard from some of our community, and many throughout our nation, as I have been during the COVID-19 pandemic and school shutdown. I have heard everything from remarks about us enjoying our six-month “vacation,” to suggestions that we stop being paid to “sit around,” and even that we are unmotivated to help our students and do our jobs or rise to the occasion.
The slamming of our profession has turned into an everyday occurrence and, yes, it is absolutely taking a toll on people who work in education. I have seen acquaintances blast educators on social media, fueling the fury amongst some groups within our community. I understand most of this comes from families feeling trapped and frustrated in this impossible situation. You want to make it better for your family. You want to find balance. Someone has to shoulder the burden. We get it. We are you, too.
Within our school district, my colleagues and I collectively have centuries of experience in education, supporting and loving students. Unless time has been taken to talk to us, to ask us how this is going or what we have been doing to support our students and to really look at what this situation is costing us in our time, effort and sanity, how is it possible to know what is happening behind the scenes? To really make an assessment while weighing the whole situation? Ask us, reach out to us, talk to us — we want you to! One of our skills is listening, and we are doing our best to provide that to you and your students right now. Please offer us the same.
Rarely do people go into education for the glory, the pay, or, despite what some may think, the summer vacation. But, because this is a heart-job, these negative comments and reactions are taken personally. Despite this, we do see those of you who support us, we feel your encouragement, and your words of hope encourage us to fight for what we believe will help us best educate children, and we will continue to do so, to the best of our abilities, every day.
Kelsey Langel is an educator at Nevada Union High School. She lives in Nevada City.
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