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Teaching in a Crisis

It takes heroes to make heroes.

By Robyn ReischPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - January 2022
Teaching in a Crisis
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

In 1872, a school teacher was not considered to be a whole person.

She could not smoke or drink. She couldn't marry. She would even be responsible for her own custodial work and retirement fund.

Back then, teachers were strictly prohibited from being human. The performance expectations were wild, and the room for error was virtually nil.

We have come a long way in the last century and a half...

Or have we?

According to Scholastic, the average teacher logs eleven work hours every day.

Take that in.

Now, consider: Those were pre-pandemic figures.

We've since seen the addition of online education - the addition, not the substitution. Most teachers are responsible for both.

Substitutes have become a scarce luxury. When a teacher is ill, many schools are forced to combine classes instead.

Teacher's aides are in short supply, as well. 

Educational professionals are burnt out. Like Encanto's Luisa, they are barely given time to shoulder one heavy burden before being thrown another. Inevitably, they are saddled with a task that soundly crushes them.

Somehow, even then, they refuse to stay down.

They get stronger.

By Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Teachers in our culture are allotted no mistakes.

Nowhere is this truer than in the special needs department.

Special education has become more vital than ever due to the pandemic. Children are delayed in speech after their crucial developmental window was spent wearing a mask. They are socially stunted after years of isolation. They are academically behind from the challenges of remote learning.

A shocking number of children were even responsible for the care and education of younger siblings while their schools were shut down. This isn't the same thing as a teenager babysitting for a couple hours. I'm talking about elementary aged children watching one another for an entire workday.

By Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

Many teenagers even had to seek out part-time jobs when their parents were laid off.

These children were given no breaks.

So...who picks up the ball when our social system drops it?

Teachers do.

Don't let their smiles, warmth, and calm demeanor fool you, fellow parents.

Teachers are struggling like never before. 

This is doubly true in the special needs department.

By Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

These teachers have been licked and sneezed on by children who can't wear masks.

They've had shoes, chairs, and even desks thrown at them.

They have been called words I can't write here.

They've been head-butted, kicked at, and bitten hard enough to draw blood.

They've been purposefully spat on during a pandemic, and told "I hope you get coronavirus".

They are buried in paperwork detailing diagnoses, accommodations, and progress - or lack thereof.

They've also increased their students' math scores by margins a statistician would have called impossible.

They have helped non-verbal students learn to express themselves. They've assisted from behind the scenes as their students navigated first friendships, second foster homes, third diagnoses, fourth medications, and even toilet training victories. 

Luisa never asks how hard the work is.

These teachers see what needs to be done, and they go about doing it.

By Adam Winger on Unsplash

They've watched the world open up to a child who thought they would never read.

They've given a kid the tools he needed to avoid a full neurological meltdown - and maybe, down the road, a jail sentence.

They've seen parents cry. Sometimes, they've cried with them.

Parenting a special needs child is lonely. A victory like reading at grade level or making it through a full school day can feel silly - even embarrassing - to share.

These teachers are the ones who understand. 

Teachers are not accomplishing these feats in a vacuum, either. Most have their own children to attend to once they get home. Some are fighting chronic illness. Others care for aging family members. They battle depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, just like the rest of us do.

They simply aren't allowed to let it show.

In our area, there is a terrible teacher shortage right now. This applies double for special needs positions. One of our local districts has eight unfilled spots in this discipline.

For the teachers who are left, the workload can be crushing.

In my son's case, as well as many others, this means the bulk of his accommodations fall on his primary teacher - a woman who did not sign up for this.

She has been an absolute rock star.

A special needs parent will spend hours and hours each week doing research. Therapies, classes, parenting techniques, fidget aides, dietary changes, medications...

This teacher is right in those trenches with me.

Actually, that's not quite true.

She is usually two steps ahead.

By Nery Montenegro on Unsplash

My child's teacher is the running partner who keeps me going. She refuses to give up on my kid. Her aide, a profoundly compassionate and energetic woman, holds us all together when we hit a breaking point. 

It takes a village. Together, these two have created a small but mighty one.

These are the people who give me the strength to keep going.

If mothers are the backbone of America, teachers are the oft-neglected beating heart.

I urge you to thank one today.


About the Creator

Robyn Reisch

Robyn Reisch spends her days cooking, writing, and raising three gorgeous little hooligans. She is married to the world's greatest man.

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Comments (2)

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  • Kimabout a year ago

    I was a teacher until about 6 months ago. I taught students with and without disabilities. I taught social studies, science, math, reading, and writing in grades 5-8. I gave my heart and soul and was gaslit and traumatized by administrators and even some teachers. I loved teaching my students. I loved learning with my students. I was taken advantage of and the job was eating me alive. Advocating for myself and my students only made things worse. I became physically ill and had to leave. I’m not sure how my mental state would be today if I stayed. I worry for teachers that struggle in silence. I worry about administrators that abuse their power. Children deserve better.

  • Kylara2 years ago

    It is crazy how many different tasks outside of teaching a teacher nowadays has.

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