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An Open Letter to Educators in 2021

To educators,

It’s impossible for those who are not in your position to understand what you’ve experienced over the past year. We have all had such vastly different responses to COVID-19, some of us encouraged to stay home, but tasked with learning how to teach remotely, others asked to continue on in the classroom while taking on additional responsibilities to maintain health and safety.

All of us caring and worrying about our students.

You have been thrown some of the most difficult challenges - not only professionally but personally. You see, this career isn’t one that is chosen by people who are in it for the 9-5, the ability to shut off “work mode” at a certain time of day and transition into “living mode”. Being a teacher is not just a career - it’s who you are!

Teaching becomes a part of you, and it dominates your thoughts at every hour. Even when we weren’t in the classroom (virtually or in-person) this year, our minds were constantly whirring.

How can I execute this lesson plan with a hybrid learning arrangement?

What will test scores look like this year?

How can I ensure progress and comprehension from my students so that they are prepared for the next level? 

Some of us did not have the full support of our communities. I’ve heard many stories about educators receiving negative, even aggressive, feedback from parents regarding their school’s decision to open/go virtual. 

And you kept trucking on, putting in the work to make sure that students weren’t missing out on the education they signed up for.

I believe the mental toll of 2020 has yet to be fully realized. I’m worried for the future of our profession, with 27% of teachers considering leaving the educational field after their experiences in 2020. 60% of teachers are enjoying their jobs less, and 77% are working more than they were a year ago.

It’s a sign of the strength and determination that is innate to the best educators. That in this time of uncertainty, of distress, and even despair, you kept showing up. You kept taking action. You kept standing up for what was best for your students, and found new ways to teach them the information they need to know in order to become successful and achieve their potential. 

You were there for your students when it mattered, when they needed stability and routine in a world that took away any sense of normalcy. 

I personally don’t think you got enough credit for that. Know that so many of us, especially other educators looking at the work that you’ve done, and the care that you’ve shown, are so inspired. We could not be more proud that you are members of our community, that you are the ones who are our children’s role models and mentors. 

I hope that you’ve found time along the way to care for yourself, either intentionally putting aside the work to engage in an activity that you enjoy, or bolstering your mental health by leaning on your loved ones or seeking out help through therapy. It is incredible what you have survived through in 2020 - never let anyone diminish the strength that it took.

Your worries were (and are) valid.

Your emotions are valid.

Your desires to remain in education, or pursue a new path are valid.

Your pride in your students, and in yourself, for making it through the year is valid.

It is not yet clear what 2021 will bring. There is news of a vaccine on the horizon, plans are starting to be put into place for what schools can look like in a post-pandemic world. We never thought we’d still be here an entire year later, pivoting and adapting on an almost daily basis. 

But I know this:

If you were a teacher in 2020, you can do anything.

 

To you today, tomorrow, and beyond,

Karen

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