Allow me to begin by being honest, I had a lot of phenomenal teachers growing up. Men and women who sacrificed their time and money to ensure that a bunch of snot-nosed kids and know-it-all teens had the capacity to learn and grow into whoever it was they felt called to become. So before writing this I decided to reach out to those very individuals in order to gain a better understanding of how we as a community can support them as they transition back into the classroom.
As I anticipated, a majority of them are fearful about operating a classroom during a global pandemic and are feeling as though they are expendable.1 Not only will they have to navigate virtual learning, but when they return to the classroom they’ll be forced to adapt to teaching in a socially distant environment and all of the difficulties that come with it. As with any of life’s challenges, whenever we are forced outside of our comfort zone there will be obstacles to overcome as we learn to survive in a new normal. Teachers are gearing up to enter what may feel like a biological war zone as they return to school during COVID-19, and even those with the highest resiliency are going to need some support as they step out onto these frontlines.
First, as their peers and community members we need to demonstrate a level of understanding, both of the risk they are taking and of the fear that can accompany it. Offhanded comments or social media posts stating that teachers should be expected to do their job just like anybody else only serve to create a culture of fear and shame. Whether these statements are true or not, they simply aren’t helpful or life-giving to our teachers and school staff. Instead, placing our personal opinions on hold and allowing teachers to express their thoughts and struggles will function to foster a community of understanding and a safe space for school staff to feel heard and appreciated.
Our second role in supporting our teachers is to show them compassion as we are each individually able. Everyone has been stretched thin at some point in the last few months, making compassion and comfort rare commodities that aren’t as readily given or received. In order to foster a sense of communal compassion it is important that each individual take time to self reflect on what their capacity for giving is. Some days it may be smaller than others, and that’s perfectly fine, if not expected! However, on days when our bandwidth is just a little bit wider than usual it could go a long way to reach out to our friends who are teachers and school staff in order to extend any amount of compassion we have to offer. As a seminary graduate, I can confidently say that this is something that all followers of Christ are called to do as well.2 By examining our own capacity and pulling from our resources to act in life-giving ways, we are truly working as the hands and feet of God right here in our community. What a tangible way to demonstrate the love of God in the midst of such chaos!
Our community can undergo major changes if each individual is willing to take one step towards understanding and compassion for our teachers and school staff. I believe we would see reduced fear and stress as we seek to offer support, as well as a Christ-like love that has the potential to saturate our schools. My personal commitment is to offer what I have the capacity for —no more, no less. Trying to offer more will only function to deplete my personal resources, and less won’t give support to anyone in need. While I normally work with kids and teens, I am committed to offering counseling for teachers and school staff as they make this transition back to school. I know of other committed individuals and therapists who are working to offer support groups and mental healthcare to our teachers as well.3 I’d like to personally invite you to consider what you have to offer in this season. When every individual within our community is committed to giving as we are each gifted and able we will see understanding and compassion for teachers and school staff begin to change their lives in incredible ways.
Amanda Tipps, M.A., LPC-Intern
Supervised by Nancy Derrick, MSCP, LPC-S
1 S. Ienatsch, personal communication, August 3, 2020
2 Zechariah 7:9-10; Matthew 9:36; Luke 6:36; Luke 15:20; Philippians 2:1-2; Colossians 3:12-13
3 Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (2020, July). Reunite, Renew and Thrive: SEL Roadmap for Reopening School. https://casel.org/reopening-with-sel/
Published on Aug 13 @ 10:03 AM CDT