Here’s To Our Teachers!

by Sue Giustino

Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.  – Sidney Hook

After being an educator in the public school system for 33 years, the present situation that teachers have found themselves in has left me feeling conflicted. At times I’m relieved that I didn’t have to deal with this ‘initiation by fire’ type of distance teaching, yet at other times I feel a need to be there to support my colleagues and students during this uncertain time.

Never in my lifetime have I seen such a high regard for our educators. [Other than way back when I was a student and my parents’ respect for teachers was something not to be questioned, the teacher was always right!]  From community members and friends dealing with home-schooling issues, to tv personalities and actors, to the Facebook parents with hysterical and/or impassioned pleas and skits, this new respect for teachers is refreshing. Even Jimmy Fallon sang a song for teachers during teacher appreciation week. My hope is that all of the teachers out there dealing with this new reality, while also taking care of the home and family, and home schooling their own children, are taking a moment to appreciate the appreciation.

However, at the same time, this situation seems to be making some people think that this could be the new permanent norm.  On May 5th 2020- our governor posted this bomb shell: NYGovCuomo says New York State will be working with @gatesfoundation to develop a blueprint to “reimagine education” in New York State in post-COVID19 world.

Well that certainly caused quite a stir of ‘what does this mean?’ among educators and parents. Mary, a colleague of mine composed a wonderful response on Facebook listing some of the various reasons why distance learning for the long term is a bad idea. Her thoughts included how working parents would deal with daycare, the need for socialization and skills for interacting, as well as the need that many of our students have to feel safe, loved and cared for. Although all of her points are valid, my favorite is #5 on her list. “The business of children is no business at all. They aren’t numbers you can put on a spreadsheet. They aren’t there for your profit and gain, or for Bill Gates profit and gain. They are funny, insightful, kind, silly, stubborn, loyal, intelligent, dopey, lovable, and yes sometimes gross, human beings.”

So following this and a host of other outcries, the Governor had an additional, maybe clarifying-maybe backpedaling, comment on May 6th:     

Teachers are heroes & nothing could ever replace in-person learning — COVID has reinforced that.

The re-imagine education task force focuses on using technology most effectively while schools are closed & to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are.

This will be done in full partnership with educators and administrators — that’s the only way it could be successful.”

Although this is a difficult trying time with ever changing ideas and guidelines, all of our teachers are working hard to provide a meaningful educational experience through a modality many have never utilized to this level. Yet it’s happening, and so are the calls and texts with parents, zoom meetings with colleagues and administrators, and neighborhood drive-byes and social media videos for students to see the teachers they love and miss.

My respect and heart goes out to each one of you. Especially my daughter Kara, her fiancé Andrew, and my son-in-law David who are each providing distance music education for their students. To my sister Peg and brother-in-law Joe, along with my ‘student-teaching’ niece Hannah, all working under one roof for three different districts. To the teachers of the Montauk School whom I had the pleasure to cheer on as they did their drive-by through my neighborhood. And most certainly to my devoted friends and colleagues from South Country School District whom I miss very much.

So hang in there teacher friends- you are supportive, positive, caring educators, and you are irreplaceable. Here are some words of wisdom to think about:

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.  – Benjamin Franklin

 Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids to work together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.  – Bill Gates