Dare I say during this school year, school staff members were tested far more than the students were?
I have the privilege of being in connection with so many teachers, administrators, school counselors, and SACs in a variety of ways. Aside from having teachers and administrators in my family, I also work with a few teachers in my private practice, and I am very well connected to the school districts through my job with the Gloucester Township Police Department.
Throughout the pandemic, I have heard people make comments about how easy it must be for the school staff members to be able to work from home. People have made comments about how, because schools closed in March, this will be “the longest summer break for them”. And I just have to say,
I wholeheartedly disagree. This will not be the longest, easiest summer break for school staff, but it will surely be the most well-deserved break they have ever had.
Mid-March should be an exciting time throughout school districts – spring is in the air, school trips are being planned, graduations and proms are around the corner, award ceremonies are being anticipated, etc. This year, however, in the blink of an eye, COVID-19 forced schools to take their regular teaching curriculum and turn it into remote learning. Was this a seemingly impossible and daunting task? Absolutely! But the school staff rose to the occasion. I have spoken with teachers and school counselors who have worked tirelessly just to make sure that they could continue to educate kids whom they could no longer see in person.
But it doesn’t end there! See, the really inspiring thing about teachers, SACs, school counselors/social workers, and administrators is that they never do just the bare minimum.
It is hard enough to meet the needs of every child in a school when they are sitting right in front of you, let alone trying to keep up with children, especially at-risk children, who are now forced into remote learning. It would be a million times easier to let these kids slip through the cracks and simply give them zeros or fail them for the year when they are not checking in with their teachers, not turning in their work, or have not responded to any of the school staff’s requests. What the school staff did instead, however, is work even harder to make sure that these children know they are not alone and ensure that they have the resources they need to continue with remote learning.
School staff have worked double-time, triple-time, quadruple-time to make sure the students do not miss out on any of the fun activities that were planned for the end of the school year. I am honored to work with one school SAC in particular who even transformed the school’s annual senior scholarship competition so that it could be completed virtually and the students would still have a chance to compete. I have watched teachers make videos for their students, hold Zoom meetings so the class could be together, and schedule time individually with each child to talk about the end of the school year, especially the younger children, like 5thgraders, who will never get the opportunity to go back to their elementary school, as they will now be moving onto middle school.
Teachers and counselors care so much more than we give them credit for. When the schools first closed, I remember sitting in my private practice with a patient who teaches elementary-aged children in an inner-city school district. In our previous sessions, we had many conversations about how much these children challenged her due their environments, histories of trauma, lack of support at home, etc. However, when she realized she was no longer going to be able to see her students at work every day, she was devastated. She grieved over not being able to interact with her kids. She worried because she knew that for so many of those children, school was their only safe space. She was frustrated with figuring out how she would continue to connect with her students when so many of them do not even have internet access in their homes.
It has not been easy for members of school districts, regardless if they are teachers, counselors, SACs, or administrators. It has been exhausting, heartbreaking, worrisome, and stressful beyond belief. But in typical school staff fashion, they rose to the occasion. They have done socially-distanced visits with their students, checked in with many of them on a regular basis, surprised them at their homes with goodie bags to celebrate making it through the school year, and so much more.
In this week’s blog post, I simply wanted to make space to honor the schools and recognize how hard these loving and dedicated individuals have worked on behalf of their students. They did not have an extended summer vacation. The truth is that they went to war against a pandemic that took away their ability to influence and educate our younger generations.
To the teachers,
To the SACs,
To the school counselors and social workers,
To the administrators,
To every single person who works in or for the school districts:
This one is for you. THANK YOU.