Let’s take a long moment today to pay tribute to Kansas teachers.
Educators always do more than their job description suggests, as our society essentially delegates to them the tasks of teaching, guiding, supervising, modeling appropriate behavior and picking up after our children. Parents learned how important these professionals were in the spring as schools shut their doors and children began to learn (or not) from home.
As this new school year has dawned, teachers are doing even more. Occasionally, they are doing so with far less. In some districts, they are working remotely, attempting to manage classes through video conferencing and a bevy of homework apps.
Others are masked and in the physical classroom, trying to keep up with their usual jobs and the usual societal expectations in a time that is most profoundly unusual. How do you encourage children and teens without the ability to hug, pat on the shoulder or come within six feet?
Schools appear to be doing a good job of enforcing masking rules and other restrictions across the state. Few cases seem to be coming from classroom settings. But that’s only one part of the equation. The other important piece is that children continue to learn, grow, develop and socialize. And all of those things continue to be challenges, whether learning is conveyed in person or remotely.
So yes, we celebrate teachers and all they have done this far. No doubt they will continue to do more as the year continues.
But we cannot ignore the fact that we all could have done more. In arguing about opening and closing businesses, in focusing on bars and restaurants, in squabbling over mask mandates, we took our eyes off the ball. We neglected the needs of kids.
Schools are one of the most important collective responsibilities of states and towns. We could have poured in money and resources to support administrators and teachers. We could have taken the summer and fall as opportunities to experiment, taking classes outside, changing instructional methods and remodeling buildings. We could have made revamping education the state’s top priority, not just one item on a full and pressing list.
Perhaps we just write this with the benefit of hindsight. If we had known back in March that the pandemic would be with us for so many months more, perhaps our perspectives would have been different.
We appreciate the work of educators across the state. You have gone above and beyond. Yet we should have done more to help you, and we should do more to help you in the months ahead.