As the son of a now-retired teacher and as someone who seriously thought about becoming a teacher themselves, I cannot point out how much this hit home for me. So many people think teachers ‘just’ teach content. They do so much more. They are the life-blood of society. It’s teachers that give their students the confidence to explore their passions—passions that often lead to life-defining career moves, ideologies, and personal development. Yes, teachers teach content but they serve a far greater purpose.
Far beyond the curriculum that they pour over to find new, interesting, and valuable ways to pass to their students, they are carers, guardians, mentors, and friends. They are also skilled mediators who are able to manage dozens of opinions, views, and attitudes and steer them in very specific directions. It’s not surprising that many people are finding out the true weight of a teacher now. Like so many things, Coronavirus has made us re-evaluate how we function in every aspect of society. While we can slow things down to wait for the worst of this pandemic to pass so we can return to a sense of safety and the new ‘normal,’ it’s remarkably difficult to do that with one’s learning.
I know from personal experience that missing a large chunk of an academic year can create a hole that is very hard to fill and can easily grow if it’s not addressed. What one misses in the classroom can have an impact many years after you leave that academic year. What I experienced because of a surgery in my early teens impacted me and I was lucky enough to keep more or less in touch with the content so it didn’t have as long an impact on me. This is different. This hurts everyone. Still, I’m cautiously optimistic: since so many teachers are keeping their students active and learning during what is perhaps one of the biggest crises in living memory—at great personal risk—there is a chance the gap in key learning can be filled before too much lasting damage can be felt.
As parents and students become more acutely aware of the tolls teaching takes on the teacher and teachers’ families—the long hours, the tireless hard work, and dedication that rivals religious fervour—perhaps now we can make our appreciation for teachers known all the louder. Teachers around the world are underpaid, under-appreciated, and often over-worked. Despite statistics and reports showing how teachers have been under-valued or forced to buy textbooks out of their own pockets, teachers hardly complain. On the contrary, they’re happy to help; happy to educate. Growing up around a teacher, the amount of time that teachers put into the work they do is simply astonishing and to call it ‘commendable’ is an understatement—there is no word adequate enough to describe the value of the work they do.
Teachers deserve all the support in the world. I know many of us tell our teachers this but we must do so again, especially now. Let’s not forget the role so many essential service providers—healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, and so many more—play in giving us the opportunities we have to put our best foot forward.
To all those who taught me: I salute you knowing I stand tall now because of the work that you did and continue to do so tirelessly.