The window of her Jeep was down when she nodded a weary yes. I said, “I am a retired teacher.” She said, “Oh, so you understand.” I fumbled to make a heart shape with my hands while I tangled with the leash for my dog.
We were out on a neighborhood walk. It was Friday and close to 6 p.m. as she pulled out of the back entrance to Brookside Elementary. As I continued to walk my dog, Seti, back home, I pondered how this young teacher had the world on her shoulders. Yes, I do understand. During four decades of teaching middle and high school I routinely stayed late Friday afternoons to prep for the next week. Like this determined teacher I would get home late to my family, especially on Fridays. Teaching has always required hours of preparation if you are determined and driven to give your all to engage and lift up your students.
But now the task is so multilayered and arduous. Part of me wants to jump into the trenches with these hard-working leaders. Part of me is relieved that I don’t have to: risk my own health to teach our kids, learn how to simultaneously teach kids in my classroom and kids at home, and learn how to make everything digital.
In a recent Norwalk Hour article, we were invited inside a Brien McMahon High School class with the teacher, Paula Fortuna, who deftly juggled guiding her public-speaking class through their assignment of listening to a speech of their choice on Moth Radio Hour (primary source: current storytelling exemplars) while taking notes to prepare the structure of their own speech as she walked around connecting with her in person students and checking in with her students on Zoom. No boring lecture here, world-class teaching.
My daughter, Erin, an Algebra high school teacher in Queens, credits as Fortuna does the professional development courses introducing and/or expanding the fluency of our dedicated teachers to technology – s.a. Flipgrid, One Note, Zoom, Google Classroom, Nearpod, Kahoot, Floop, Parlay and myriads of websites full of inviting knowledge. School administrators know their teachers do not have time to waste. Administrators have brought their “A” game to support teachers, high quality professional development (PD) days among their many kindnesses. We all are coming to understand in this moment the essential, even noble role teachers have in the COVID-19 crisis. We can all support teachers: administrators, parents, neighbors and politicians.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Connecticut Education Association (CEA) have taken notice of local candidates Democratic Rep. Lucy Dathan of Norwalk’s 142nd district, and Democratic candidate Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk’s 143rd district. They have endorsed them because these two political leaders know our amazing teachers deserve all the support they can get. Teachers should not have to worry about whether they will have their pensions when they retire. As teachers put themselves on the line for us today, they should have to not worry about making ends meet tomorrow.
I know Lucy. And I know Stephanie. They will work with energy and passion to stand with teachers. Encourage and honor our teachers now, and vote for the candidates who will too.
Mary Ellen Flaherty-Ludwig