Don’t Feel Sorry For A Teacher

I run an immediate risk with teaching colleagues with such a title caught in the eye of the storm that is COVID-19. Our lives and the students we teach are forever changed, anyone, anywhere in the world will be impacted more directly than indirectly by this virus. We will all have to adjust to the new normal until a medically healing vaccine will be discovered. I speak of teachers because in my world most of us still have our jobs, and before this pandemic, there have been history books written on the scrutiny of teachers and the lack of respect for all of their work in the classroom with ‘your’ children.

I would be remiss if I didn’t first speak of all of our civil servants, our police, our fire workers, our EMTs, our service workers, our medical teams who put themselves directly in line with the contagion. In addition many people have the opportunity to still work from their homes. We have become a necessarily adaptive society using our online social network at an alarming rate. So let’s get back to teachers shall we? Without discounting the incredible numbers of unemployed I want to speak of our opportunity as educators in this unique time.

A couple of years ago, in the district I teach we went one to one with technology. No one in their right mind imagined our current peril to be the reason. The planning committees across the world with research to back up their findings would suggest that students can go further with their learning using online resources. Our school district created a system of keeping academics in focus on what was once known as a snow day. The idea didn’t take the entire day of freedom from students at home, but it did offer a limited array of academic tools to keep students on track. This system was imagined to compensate four or five days of lost education in a winter bound region of the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the rules. Students need their education, they need to move to the next level. Students across the world need to be able to achieve a current level of education in order to hone theirs skills to live formative futures that lay ahead. Students in post-secondary also face the same challenge. For the sake of this writing, the focus in on elementary through high school, and primarily on senior classes whose graduation walk are now hanging by a thread. This does not even speak to the extracurriculars – athletics, fine arts, business, etc.

When this virus first began to impact education, we were told we would have a week and a half before our spring break to begin implementing tools to provide students distance-learning for the rest of the school year. It would appear we may not enter the classroom through graduation. I remember hearing a colleague one day suggest that maybe teachers will gain more respect now that parents are forced to stay home from their jobs in order to care for their children. I cannot imagine what parents who need to work and cannot are going through in respect to their children who are dependent upon their love, compassion and care in home. During our ‘shelter in place’ or ‘stay at home’ mandate in nearly every state in the country, every country in the world, our children are left living uncertain and vulnerable times.

I personally don’t believe this gives teachers a better opportunity to gain respect. In fact, it increases our responsibility to move students forward. It demands that as a teacher we find a way to inspire and support students to continue moving to the next level of their education. The COVID-19 virus is a mandate on education, and we as teachers need to embrace this opportunity in the midst of crisis.

Now more than ever teachers cannot manifest the identity that allows the general public to believe we may take ownership in lesser stressed occupations than workers in many capacities across the country. Teachers need to step up and create online classrooms that will capture the imagination of students across the world. In the classroom, we as teachers are asked to provide students with a safe environment for learning and coping in a dynamic and fluid world. More than ever, as we reach into student homes we need the parents to feel confident their children are not being ignored and not being forced to move in rampant fashion into negative aspects of such remarkable free time in their lives.

As a teacher, we need to reach our students and not let them believe at an ever increasing and alarming level that we do not take stake in moving them forward and giving them the tools to continue to hone their academic skill set. As a teacher, we need to continue to be a student mentor. That is what we signed up for. That cannot change.

Be safe everyone – keep your distance – wear your masks – love each other.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2020

The ‘Not Yet’ Reality of Racism

boston

Boston rally – photo credit – CNN

A dear friend once used the phrase ‘not yet’ to suggest a descriptive moment in our lives that though I will not describe that context, I will explore the phrase as it pertains to our lives in America today. As I write this commentary, I notice a massive gathering of protesters in Boston to represent all sides in light of the Charlottesville tragedy. To be clear, it has been reported that this Boston ‘Freedom’ rally was planned in advance to last week’s hate melee in Virginia; however, at the same time, authorities are said to be prepared for outbreaks, and have given notice to all participants.

I’m personally very happy to see this gathering, and my wishes are for a completely peaceful representation. After all, wouldn’t it be refreshing to be able to say this evening, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Boston Commons without incident? We can only hope, but in the meantime, let’s talk about the ‘not yet’ factor of racism in America. After all, a score of you reading this right now may be sitting in your chair at home or in the office, or sharing drinks or coffee with friends having a dialogue, expounding upon the issues that haunt our country’s racial divide, but just aren’t quite ready to become involved. Many of you might even be saying, I believe the issue exists, but I just don’t want to become … not yet.

After Charlottesville and the notable incidents that will appear to evolve from today’s rallies, my suggestion would be that the time is now. We can all in less than five minutes name a string of current events that impact the racial divide in America. It is time to stop suggesting we are over reacting and begin to address the issues that exist in our society today. Right now, today as I write this I feel a stronger tension than I did as a child growing up in the 60’s. Granted I wasn’t yet in my teens, but I listened to my older siblings, and watched the news with a very well informed mother and father.

The fact that civil rights set such a precedent in the 60’s gives cause to argue that what is happening today in our world is throwing all of that effort out the window. It would seem today, we are right back where we started with open violence attached to racial discrimination. There are no filters, and our children, the young people growing up with this mindset should be our primary concern.

What scares me the most is the actions that happen behind closed doors, just like the very pub or coffee shop you are sitting in right now. Those conversations need to be geared toward reframing our thinking, to understand what ‘love’ means as opposed to the insidious nature of ‘hate’ in America. Time magazine recently published a cover page with the American flag and the heading ‘Hate in America’ as its bi-line. I scratched out hate and wrote love above it and posted it on Facebook, but then took it down because of copyright infringement.

We need to start to dialogue together, to inform one another of the long-term effects of racism, not as much our future but how the past has impacted a way of thinking today, that will not improve if society doesn’t begin to collectively listen. Let’s ignore the ‘not yet’ and begin to act now.

In the meantime, let’s wish for peaceful strolls throughout some major metropolitan cities where protesters are presently laying emphasis on the cause for peace and unity throughout this gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

 

 

If Not For That

We wake to the morning

asking for our soul,

at least for a few hours,

protect the innocent,

that sort of thing that eats away,

asks you with a constant

urgency.

Do you have to be that way,

could you maybe perhaps

try it another way.

Does it always have to be,

the way you want it to be.

I feel a constant pressure,

at my back, in my face,

crawling along my skin,

each glance, each breath,

my takeaway is nothing short of,

really dissatisfying.

Yet, when I stop to breathe

(a rare reality)

I sometimes come to terms

with how base my society is,

how simple an analogy I could toss around,

and satisfy so many onlookers.

I have to consciously allow my life to unfold,

and when I do,

when that really does happen,

when I might feel the beauty of life around me,

rather than the angst of not having any energy,

when that occurs,

well, that’s really the best time to

teach.

We Cannot Choose

Search the horizon,

acknowledge the occasional bump,

maybe a blemish,

a stained reality screaming aloud.

Pause to breathe,

yet don’t step away,

keep your eye on obligation,

imagine the pearl in the rough awakening,

striving and helpless,

until time graced innocence

accentuates grief’s consequence.

Well ahead there exists a euphoric sunrise,

perhaps grayed with callous indecision

today, tomorrow, throughout,

a very near future –

yet know you’re holding a key,

you might respond accordingly,

to a beautiful opportunity.

Be the teacher,

please.

Our Charges Return

Streaming in waves, in smiles and raves,

the children are arriving this morning,

we will welcome all of you with open arms,

readied our rooms, and ironed our ties,

the days ahead are only meant for you.

innocent eyes, and worrisome nights,

children of our halls, determined and right.

~

I stepped into the constant motion

noticed them all with emotion,

I realized how much I’d missed every face,

how excited I was by the new,

I understood that this special place,

held a bargain for me to offer solace,

to those that came through the halls today.

~

We begin the task, forever in progress,

the idea of moving our pages along,

the free-spirit nature of every child,

is our responsibility to maintain, to ideal.

Walk inside the classroom, tap a pencil

look around the space to see a set of eyes,

then know that each set is willing the same.

~

To a teacher on the first day of school, hello,

to a student in return, welcome to your life.

What We Do

On a near morning,

duty will call,

the rise of another nation

of children, all eager minds

willing to listen

only if provided

our correct animation.

Methodical minds

will test the limits

while the year winds

with levels of commotion.

We need to return

our lives are their mortar

feel the grains, the seed

when melted in knowledge

castle walls may appear

with inviting hallows.

I would if I might

venture to suggest

my world is less important

than the guest rooms,

backseats, extended stays,

low-income, palatial platforms

single-family fortress our

charges will depart

to grace the hallways

wandering, wondering, whether

this classroom is worth

their precious time.

When next the hour

suggests we smile,

we will include passion

to advocate the beauty

of their timeless soul.

Who Do We Serve?

I open my curtains and the light shatters the room with brilliance,

such is the life of a teacher on opening day of the school year.

Fresh minds invade the quiet peace of a marble castle

only to gradually tear down the mortar slivered throughout walls

of academic prowess. These are our children, these are their needs,

and we are licensed to bring them to the next level.

I haven’t cashed out yet, so allow me a story please.

I like to be loved, liked, thought of as a good person,

I usually count on that to battle the voices in my head.

While the days go by I will encounter eager minds,

the students that will live our lives over again tomorrow.

I wish their happiness,

i wish their dreams to explode with much success,

I need to certainly understand my life as I stand here

is designed for them if that is the legacy I choose.

So feel the brilliant rays take over the room,

here we are together on a journey for the year.

Let’s realize goodness together, and let’s hope my hope

is the offer of support, guidance and exemplar notes ahead.