I was asked by a dear friend and union sister to take part in the seven day challenge where you post pictures for seven days without explanation to demonstrate the life of an educator.
I am an educator. Always have been. Always will be. However, right now my role is that of an educator advocate and this challenge really got me thinking.
Educators are hurting. While they appreciate the gratitude and thanks they receive from administrators, parents, students and communities alike, they are on the brink.
Pandemic teaching and learning is hard, exhausting and some days nearly impossible. If our educators and their families aren't okay, they cannot provide the best learning environment for their students. Breaking news! They aren't okay. What they need instead of photos of their real life is real talk.
Our teachers need time to plan, time to collaborate and time to share how things are really going so everyone in the school community can do their best work while keeping everyone safe.
They need what the State Education Department stated was necessary when reopening buildings for learning this fall. They need social and emotional supports from their district administration, and they need it now!
On page 64 of SED's guidance it states, "...Stakeholders stressed the critical need to address adults’ social and emotional needs before the return to school and on an ongoing basis. Adults must have systems of support including meaningful peer relationships, opportunities to connect, and resources to support self-care. Without these supports in place, adults will not have optimal capacity to support the needs of students and families."
How are districts doing this?
Are districts doing this? The answer we are hearing is no.
We've heard this after speaking with hundreds and hundreds of teachers across the state through NYSUT's committee structures and Policy Council. However, districts can change this by making the social emotional support of staff a priority in 2021.
On page 65 of SED's guidance it states:
"Establish an advisory council, shared decision-making, school climate team, or other collaborative working group comprised of families, students, members of the board of education, school building and/or district/charter leaders, community-based service providers, teachers, certified school counselors, and other pupil personnel service providers including school social workers and/or school psychologists to inform the comprehensive developmental school counseling program plan.
Address how the school/district will provide resources and referrals to address mental health, behavioral, and emotional support services and programs.
Address professional development opportunities for faculty and staff on how to talk with and support students during and after the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as provide supports for developing coping and resilience skills for students, faculty, and staff."
Let me be clear. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is doing the very best they can in the very worst situation. No one wants to let students, educators, families or their communities down but a teacher's working environment is directly tied to the learning conditions for her students. We must attend to all members of our school communities to ensure we have the most optimum conditions for teaching and learning.
1. First, attend to everyone's physical health and safety.
2. Next, attend to everyone's social and emotional well-being.
NYSUT has developed a survey for local presidents to use to gather feedback from their membership on how well the SED learning plan is working. This tool can be requested through our Labor Relations Specialists and then it can be used to start a collaborative conversation with the administration and the community on the changes that need to be made to keep everyone safe, cared for and appreciated.
So while some may enjoy seeing pictures that give us a glimpse into the real life of an educator, what educators need is not your gratitude or a retweet. They need real help and real solutions to tackle the challenges they are facing, so they can be at their best for the students they care so deeply about instructing.
For more information on the professional learning NYSUT has to offer our educators, go to www.ELT.nysut.org. Some seminars are even FREE for NYSUT members!