“These are the times,” said Thomas Paine, “that try men’s souls.” This past year has presented tremendous challenges for our students, their families, and also for our teachers. I am reminded of a quote from Jonathan Sacks about a man on the deck of the Titanic drinking a lemonade who said, “I know I ordered extra ice, but this is ridiculous.”
“Narrow casted news”, as opposed to broadcasted news, is promoting a false narrative that teachers do not wish to be in classrooms and are putting student academic progress at risk. While some may use this sound bite for political gain, it does not represent what is going on in Idaho classrooms and does a disservice to our educational professionals who have dedicated their lives to lifting students and families.
We recall the herculean effort by teachers, administrators, and staff to turn education on a dime last year, and in a matter of days, change what learning looks like in Idaho. This was a team effort as legislators worked with educational stakeholder groups (the ISBA, the IASA, and the IEA) and with local school boards to support Idaho teachers and students.
Butte County schools were unaffected by COVID-19 until August when we saw our first cases of students and staff testing positive. One of our staff spent more than a week in an ICU on oxygen. Other Idaho school districts were hit much worse by the pandemic. The mental and physical toll on teachers across our great state has been devastating.
Yet, I see teachers and staff working everyday to bridge the academic gap created by COVID-19. In roundtable meetings with our community and staff, I saw student mental health and academic progress promoted by our teachers and parents. Working with the Southeast Idaho Health Department, the Lost River Medical Center, and our school administrators; the Butte County School Board approved precautions that have allowed us to be in school, face to face, every day since Sept. 14. During this time, I have seen teachers and staff consistently put the needs of our students in the forefront.
Teacher bashing may be in vogue in certain circles, but it does not correlate with what I see in my district nor with what I hear from colleagues across Idaho. The better we support our teachers, the better they will be able to support our students. Deming’s ideas of driving out fear and removing obstacles to success fit nicely with what Idaho schools are facing. Increased expectations and accountability must be matched by increased levels of support. This is much more than a “feel-good” topic. It is the right thing to do.