It’s time to get behind our teachers

It’s time to get behind our teachers

By Robert Lee, Mayor of Jenks

During my early childhood, my parents put themselves through school to become teachers, while each ran their own back-breaking business.

My dad cleaned carpets, and my mom hung wallpaper. Some of my earliest memories are of my sister and I helping my dad lug a giant carpet cleaning machine up flights of stairs or sanding drywall with my mom.

My parents wanted to teach because they had a calling to do it. They were very good at connecting with people and explaining complicated things in a fun way. The derisive term “those who can’t do, teach” did not apply to them, just as it does not to most educators. Teaching, as it turns out, takes great skill and is one of the most important forms of “doing.”

During the nine months when school is in session, mom and dad did not just work 40-hour weeks. They got up at the crack of dawn, and while the kids left at 3:30 in the afternoon, mom and dad had plenty of other duties, participating in extracurricular activities and grading student work into the night. During the summer months, my parents would work to continue their education and prepare new lesson plans. My sister and I did not sand drywall as much (we still did sometimes — the two breadwinners were teachers, after all). Instead, we did things like dissect owl pellets and re-enact Revolutionary War battles with toy soldiers, as guinea pigs for the school year to come.

These experiences taught me how hard teachers work year-round for our communities. This is true during normal circumstances, but it has been even more true in recent months. Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, many teachers have been out of the classroom, but they have been working overtime to make sure they are able to safely educate our kids.

As we navigate the current school year, many educators have been rightly concerned about returning to in-person instruction. Not because they are afraid. Not because they are having a relaxing time at home — there is no doubt distance learning means teachers work longer hours than normal. Not because the average price tag for a Covid-19 hospital stay exceeds their annual salary. It is because they recognize the magnitude of what we are facing, and they do not want schools to be a major contributor to what medical professionals are facing on the front lines of this pandemic. Educators have a unique insight into how challenging it will be to teach socially distanced classes, as well as the many overlapping chains of transmission that are possible in a school environment.

Whatever form school takes this year, I hope you will join me in getting behind our educators, school staff, and administrators. Whether in person or remote, much will be asked of these professionals. I thank them for going way above and beyond this year.

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