It’s Christmas time and I am all about the holly jolly. I have lights and ribbon and bows and bells all over everything. But I am going to take a break from my festivities to discuss something serious. In between wrapping presents and sampling Christmas cookies, I am still going to work everyday. On my travels to schools across Southeast Missouri, I continue to see something that makes me feel not very cheery at all.
I am fortunate enough to work with some very talented teachers, principals, consultants, instructional coaches, and superintendents. Their dedication to their schools and their love for their students is powerful and inspirational. It makes me look back on my days in the classroom and wonder what in the world I was thinking with some of the stuff I was doing. I am in awe of what they do on a daily basis.
When I go to their schools, I expect to see these people smiling and happy and energized. I love them so much that I just see rainbows and sunshines above their heads. But guess what? This year, some of my very favorite educators are not smiling. They are not happy. They have no energy. They are still highly effective and they are still giving it their all, but they are exhausted. They are still trying to be positive, but they are defeated. They believe in what they are doing, but they are thinking about doing something else.
It’s COVID. We’re still dealing with COVID. That’s what I always hear. I believe that is partially true. COVID totally reshaped education as we know it. Educators are still dealing with that and will be for some time. But COVID is not the entire problem. The underlying problem started long before COVID. The underlying problem is lack of support.
Educators have shown, particularly through the pandemic, that they will do almost anything to ensure that students learn. They will sacrifice time, money, and sanity to see that their students have what they need. They will do it even when parents are bickering at them. They will do it when students are very difficult to work with. They will climb right out on the ledge to support every child. The ONE thing they need is someone to hold onto them as they hold onto the child.
No one is holding onto them. No one. Not these excellent educators with whom I am working. They are out there walking on ledges all day with no safety net, and they know it. The brightest and the best are being left to go it alone. They are being set up to fail.
I see tears in their eyes more often than not. Their faces are tired and sad. They ask me about other jobs. They would do anything for their students, but they can’t continue to do this without support.
I don’t have the answer, but I do have a suggestion. Be kind. Administrators, do not take anyone for granted. Even your best faculty members might be silently suffering. Just because people continue to work without copious complaining does not mean that they are not considering other options. Trust me on that. Teaching is hard. It’s hard on everyone. Support one another. No one can do it alone. Don’t let some people bear too much of the weight.
For my friends who are suffering, I am here for you. I see you. I hear you. I feel your frustration. You ARE making a difference for children, but you have to take care of you, too.