Two recent newspaper articles have raised my awareness of the dilemma of folks who, unlike me, must work in appallingly difficult circumstances these days. In a recent edition of The Washington Post, columnist Kala L. Miller wrote “The Great Resignation: Burnout, low pay prompt workers to quit in pandemic” (Oct. 3, section G2). In the article she quotes one person who sums up what most workers desire: “I only want to work in an environment of respect and productivity, until retirement if possible.” Ms. Miller comments, “The onus is on employers to show how they make their employees feel safe, appreciated and respected.”
The second article, from the Daily News-Record, referenced school Superintendent Oskar Sheikl’s response to parents who have been harassing teachers over the teaching of history in our local schools (Sept. 28, front page). That article churned my stomach. I have two daughters, both of whom are teachers — one in Delaware, the other in North Carolina. They are good teachers. Previously, one taught missionary children for two years in Ecuador as a part of a post-college mission assignment. The other taught in the George Washington Carver Elementary School in Richmond, served as a teacher trainer for the U.S. Peace Corps and later taught in an American school in Honduras. Both presently find themselves in the position of the workers referenced in Kala Miller’s article (cited above).
I know from conversations with them over the past two years that doing their work has been one step away from what the Bible calls Gehenna. The stress of teaching online last year; and, now, dealing with the multiple protocols of classroom teaching again is almost overwhelming. In addition, both have school-age children and husbands for whom they bear a responsibility. Both would likely have decided to throw in the towel after last year and said, “This just isn’t worth it,” except for one thing. They love their students. They don’t want to let the children and their families down.
I don’t think they are unique in that regard. I believe most teachers feel the same commitment. They want to see children learn and flourish and they would risk their lives to protect their students should it be necessary. So, I want to say “kudos” to Superintendent Sheikl for standing up for his teachers and calling out the bad behavior of parents who are more concerned with their opinions about critical race theory than the lives of the teachers who are just doing their jobs. Mr. Sheikl understands Ms. Miller’s observation that employers must do all they can to provide an environment in which workers feel “safe, appreciated and respected.”
I want to ask parents and politicians who are making life difficult for our teachers to stop and take a deep breath. What we are talking about here concerns primarily high school teachers who are trying to teach truthful history by state-mandated guidelines to students who are from families that are all over the map politically. Their job is difficult. They are human beings who deserve appreciation and respect for their commitment. Please don’t make life harder for them by thoughtless comments and threats.
Tom Reynolds lives in Bridgewater.