An Open Letter To Teachers in the Midst of Distance Learning

I see you—you are tired and frustrated and learning all the new tools that you need to teach the kids who may or may not be paying attention to you on the other end of the video call. You are worried about your students and their families, and you want nothing more than to be safely face-to-face with them, to see that they are okay, and learn together in the ways that are comfortable and familiar. But you can’t; so you are taking on the super-human mission of teaching kids that you cannot see and whose needs you cannot properly assess or dream of meeting… all while your heart is breaking. I see you.

So when I overhear you say, “this is the worst day of my life…I can’t do this…” to a virtual class full of kids as you struggle mightily with learning how to reach and teach these students with all-new glitchy tech tools during a pandemic, I hear you, I see you… and I believe you. This is kind of the worst.

My deepest hope and prayer is that your day was not made worse by imagining that parents like me are expecting miracles from you; I know I’m not. I promise you that I know that you are not responsible for this pandemic, and that things will not go back to the way they were before, if only you could get Flipgrid to start working. You are doing what you can.

Hear me when I say that your worth as a teacher, as a human, is not dependent on how well the technology is working today.

And parents, I see you, too. You are frustrated as you are trying to work or find work and put food on the table and keep everyone healthy (wash your hands!), all while keeping your kids on task, perhaps even striving for pre-pandemic standards. The school schedules and expectations are unclear at best, and you are running tech support for your frustrated, anxious kiddos, who are trying their hardest, but miss their friends like crazy. And it is too much. It just is.

Hear me when I say that your worth as a parent, as a human, is not dependent on how well you can get your child’s technology to work, or how many assignments they complete perfectly and on-time. You are trying your best.

This is so hard; so very hard. And none of us is going to get through this alone–we were never meant to do any of this alone. We need to be in this together, even if we are 6 feet (and so much more) apart. And, TBH, I have lost my cool more times than I am comfortable admitting after less than a week of distance learning.

So, going forward, here are my promises to you– the teachers, parents, and kids, all trying their hardest to survive this pandemic :

I promise to try to remember to be gentle with myself and others; and though there will be days that it will be beyond my ability, I will work my hardest to model patience and grace and remember that learning, for all of us, is messy and frustrating and joyful and hard.

I promise to not fall into the trap of making learning about achievement and competition; but about curiosity, humility, community, and wonder.

I promise to remember that learning is about all of us, not just *my* kids.

I promise to try to remember to gracefully step away from how we’ve always done it or how we planned it when changing course is called for. (Reader, I love planning. This is a hard one for me),

I promise to choose curiosity when faced with something new or scary, or with something that just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

I promise to help my children develop the skills to push through the frustration that comes with learning something new, and the wisdom to know when to step away from something that is just too much. (Yes, there will be days when I won’t make my kids finish their homework).  

Most importantly, I promise to vote and to keep screaming for more adequate funding for our public schools. Because funding matters, y’all. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: if you say you love education, if you say you love our teachers, then you should be raising holy hell every time you are reminded that our schools are being funded, in part, by box tops.

Teachers, you’ve got this. Parents, we’ve got this…and some days we won’t have this. And that is okay, too. On those days, may we remember that our kids are listening… so let us choose only the best swear words when we curse whatever technology that happens to be failing us. Because, as my 6th grade English teacher taught me many years ago, “sometimes ‘gee golly gosh’ just doesn’t cut it.”

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