As many of you know, I teach high school English. (Yes, I am the epitome of the clichéd English teacher who thinks he’s also a writer. It’s true that I even have sports coats with elbow patches.)
I wanted to take a moment and thank my employer–District 87.
It’s been a long ride with District 87. I started teaching with them in 2002. Other than a two year sabbatical when my first child was born, I’ve been in the same building in the same hallway–and almost every room in that hallway–for sixteen years. We’ve been through a lot together.
In fact, I didn’t think there was much that could surprise me anymore when it came to teaching, and then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived.
The weeks leading up to the official “shelter in place” were confusing. Like you, we heard all kinds of contradictory reports. When the order issued to stay home, none of us knew exactly what to expect.
District 87 did two things that I find exemplary.
First of all, they implored us to “do no harm” to students. They reminded us that maintaining positive relationships and assuring students’ well-being took top priority. They encouraged us to error on the side of caution, to be gentle, to have an open mind, and to emphasize kindness. In my opinion, District 87 recognized that trauma takes all kinds of different forms, and no matter how well individuals were dealing with the situation, it was nonetheless somewhere on the trauma scale for all of us.
Which leads me to my next point. District 87 treated its teachers just as compassionately as they urged us to treat our students. District 87 goes above and beyond in fulfilling the various needs of our students. We are not just an educational institution. I feel that we are also very much a social services entity. As a result, I personally think that sometimes we want to do so much good for the kids that teachers become physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. One of the first things that District 87 did after we were all sent home was to alleviate our fears as much as possible. District 87 demanded that we take care of ourselves and our families. They acknowledged that there is no way we can teach like we did in the classroom. They made a point to let us know we would all continue to be paid and that they wanted us as safe as possible.
I have not once felt pressured, judged, or stressed by District 87’s leadership during this pandemic, and for that I am deeply grateful.
To my employers, I say “thank you.”