Guest opinion: What toll will the pandemic take on educators?
I have worked for the Park City School District at the elementary level for the past nine years. I resigned on Aug. 24, heartbroken to leave a job that was so much more than a job.
It was decided to reopen schools with the option of either online learning or face-to-face learning. The district has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on supplies related to COVID-19, but my decision to resign was based more on the other cost: the human cost.
While I don’t normally speak for others, I’m writing to be a voice for those who feel they cannot speak for themselves. A large portion of our teachers and staff feel as if they are not valued, that their opinions and health matter less than those of others because their concerns for reopening seem to have been brushed aside. When coworkers heard of my resignation many replied with, “I wish I could do the same,” “I wish I could walk away, I don’t know what to do,” and “If I could afford to leave, I would.” At the rally on Wednesday, I met a teacher who confided that she had been applying to other school districts. Another teacher told me she started in another career that wasn’t very fulfilling and was drawn to teaching. That teacher is now considering going back to her original career choice, which would be a huge loss to our community! These are not the only stories that were shared with me over the course of the last few days.
This pandemic will eventually come to an end. Schools will go back to face-to-face learning minus the face masks and social distancing. Park City will go back to hosting fundraisers and supporting all of our wonderful nonprofits. Businesses will go back to business as usual. But I’m afraid of the toll this is taking and will continue to take on our educators. There is already a nationwide teacher shortage and it will cut deeply on us as Utahns as well. The handling of our schools during this unsettling time will simply exacerbate this problem.
There was nothing we could do to stop the pandemic but there must be something we can do to help our educators now. If you are a community member, please thank our educators every chance you get. If you are the parent of a student, please ask your teachers how you can support them. Voice your concerns to those who make decisions on our behalf.
If you are an educator — and that includes everyone from custodians to counselors to nurses — please know that you are amazing! I have seen firsthand the way you make our youngest learners as well as their anxious parents feel at ease in your learning environment. I have watched the back-breaking work of our custodians as they tirelessly try to sanitize every little thing. I have felt the relationships our counselors built with kids that seem so hard to reach. I have sat in administrative meetings where everyone is asking themselves and each other, “Is this what’s best for our students?”
I have personally been affected by high school teachers who showed up for my own children when they were struggling and said, “How can I best support your student?” I am in awe of each and every one of you and my gratitude for you runs deep. Please tell me how else I can help?
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