Now, a year into COVID life, a lot has changed into what has been dubbed the :New Normal.” New approaches, new values, and even new terminology.
Socializing is now anti-social, Social distancing is responsible. Being Negative is now positive and being Positive is quite negative.
Another term, with new value, is Essential. To be designated Essential, is to not only be valued, but allowed and expected, because it has been deemed important to the continuation of life during the pandemic. That which is essential can work, can be open, can function in a world of lockdowns… and in many cases, expected. Infrastructure, Grocery stores, pharmacies in most locked-down societies remain open, and therefore those who work in those establishments are expected to continue.
What hasn’t been included in the list of Essential has been schools, which have been closed now for a year. This is unfortunate because schools and teachers are Essential for the following reasons.
A majority of a student development happens through the schools. Not only are schools where students spend much of their academic time, but also a good amount of their social and emotional development. Since most of the teachers are not fully trained in online learning, their professional ability to impact this generation of students is stunted, in all facets, the consequences of which probably won’t be recognized for years to come.
The psyche of students is highly affected, more for older students than younger, because, especially for the highly motivated, their entire world is in chaos. Good students have adapted their lives (mentally, emotionally, socially) to the world of education including their future hopes and aspirations. Many are normally under high pressure to perform on a daily basis, year by year, the effects of which have a great impact on their futures. It is one thing to have their path completely disrupted. Worse is that it is inconsistent. It isn’t that students can’t adjust, situations happen often and changes to plans happen. The bigger problem is the inconsistency of it all. Will schools open or not? Can college entry tests be taken or not? Will a student get a diploma and if so, will it have any value? What will interviewers value? How can I compete? Add the daily fear of a fatal illness and discussions of death and is there any wonder why depression is higher? Why wonder why suicide rates are higher? Hope lost is a terrible thing… not having anything solid to place a new hope, much worse.
A third reason why schools are essential relates to how integrated school is in the lives of families and communities today. Family life as well as community life revolves around the school schedule. Work, family life and industries surrounding each of these items continue to run. Again, it isn’t that the world cannot adjust to a new reality, but the inconsistency, miscommunication, stress of uncertainty affects adults just as much as children. And because the added responsibility and immediately felt consequences, the mental, emotional, and psychological affects multiply, meaning that the support they would normally give their children at this time, isn’t there. The full consequences of which will be felt for a long time.
So yes, schools are Essential, Teachers are Essential, as much gas stations, as important as the check-out clerk at your local grocery store, as much as the pharmacist, as much as doctors and nurses at hospitals and clinics.
Getting them open must be a priority.
Be responsible, be diligent, don’t be resistant, be problem-solvers.
Teachers are Essential. Those who acknowledge this and fight for your children are warriors.
Appreciate them as heroes.
It’s past due, open the schools.