A Lost Year … Almost

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A note to all those beleaguered teachers out there: “Please don’t go, we need you.” Moms out there desperately need you. Dads, they need you too. Most importantly, I really, really need you. I’ll admit it.

I’ve tried doing what you do but fell woefully short of the mark. You have the unique ability to control a room, while holding the attention of twenty little minds, (and ten online at home) as you share knowledge. We have only two at our house and I can’t do it — just hope we’re not too late to convince you to stay. Please, please, please sign that contract for one more year.

With only ten more days of school left, this academic year will be over soon, and teachers across this county will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Who could blame them? With Zoom calls that freeze, internet outages, off and on quarantine for the pandemic (at our house we’re now home for two weeks), to say it’s been a challenging year would be the understatement of all understatements.

I’ve heard the stress and concern in teachers’ voices as children show their frustration on Zoom calls when things go wrong, or they can’t figure out the technology because a parent or grandparent is not around.

And even though I’ve shared that frustration, it is only because sometimes I don’t understand how to help my two granddaughters navigate the programs or find the correct links that may or may not be working.

I can’t imagine how I would feel if I was trying to help twenty-five children, all experiencing difficulties at the same time. What teachers have gone through this year and the dedication they have given to helping their students through impossible situations has really given new meaning to “essential workers.” Please don’t go, we all need you now more than ever.

Luckily, our granddaughters only had to do remote learning for nine weeks over the last year; the rest of the time they have been face-to-face. There is a huge difference in learning.

As good as Big Papa is, I don’t possess the skills that a real teacher has. I believe you’re born with a gift to teach children — you hear and answer a calling. Children learn so much more being taught face-to-face because the teacher is actually there. Unfortunately, some school systems in our state have spent this entire school year teaching remotely. It could’ve been a lost academic year.

Fortunately, teachers have always been able to adapt to changing classroom situations. Because of their wisdom and skill, the unbelievable job they have put forth balancing Zoom calls (and the glitches that come with them), emails, parent/teacher phone calls, extra lesson plans copied and put out for parent pick-up — for those students still at home it hasn’t been a lost year.

You would think having been married to an educator for the last twenty-two years, I would know how hard her job actually is, and I thought I did … until this year. Witnessing first-hand what teachers and administrators go through, I now can say I never had a clue.

The Wife comes home drained from the day, but still finds the time to answer text messages and emails well into the evening, all while taking care of our granddaughters. She has never complained — not once. And I know if she could retire, she wouldn’t. She loves what she does and still hears the calling. The teachers also need her classroom insight and thirty years of experience. She too is an essential worker.

One exceptional teacher can have influence on kids for the rest of their lives. I didn’t have one exceptional teacher while going through school.

It’s been over fifty-five years, and I still write about my third-grade teacher, Old Mrs. Crabtree, and all the things that went on in her classroom.

Mr. Hood, my eight-grade history teacher was also the assistant wrestling coach. He taught me nothing was impossible as long as I worked hard for it. Four years later, I won a State Championship in wrestling due to his encouragement and belief in me.

My tenth-grade math teacher was Mr. Myers. The ability to see numbers in my head, a skill I’ve used every day, came directly from him. Mr. Myers made math fun, and I’ll always be thankful that he did. An excellent teacher can make a profound difference in a young person’s life, and I didn’t have one. I was fortunate to have three.

Whether in person or remote, somehow through all the difficulties this year, teachers have kept an upbeat attitude while doing an amazing job. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. A big “thank you” to all you teachers out there. I know it’s been tough, but please don’t go.

The kids you teach next year will remember you long after you retire. They need you, we parents and grandparents need you, and we appreciate what you do for our kids. Now more than ever.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]