First Responder Teachers

It’s usually the time of the year when the excitement of welcoming a new batch of kids into a teacher’s classroom is evident. Educators get all giddy and jiggly with laughter. They anticipate the variety of personalities that will descend upon them and how they will influence and impact these young minds.

But this coming school year looks to be like the discovery of a new dark, suspicious-looking planet that has an ominous-sounding music echoing out of its fog. In most schools the teaching staff has the feel of being more like a special ops squad. Think Alien!

My oldest daughter is one of those first-responder teachers (3rd grade) and, I guess, I’m sorta’ one of them since I’ll still substitute teach and coach snotty-nosed middle schoolers this year. Our daughter began teacher meetings this past Wednesday, even though students don’t arrive until August 17. Let’s see…do the math…that’s 13 days of teacher meetings and preparation for an educational environment that may change half-a-dozen times before students enter the classroom.

At my middle school, whose principal is awesome, the game plan has become more like a football team that uses the option offense. There’s about five possible ways this next play can go, so the teachers are being trained in the new most valued skill: flexibility. In other words, always be ready to go in a different direction.

Into this educational tussle, add face masks, rearranged classrooms, kids who sneeze a lot, middle schoolers who are very social and often times clueless about their surroundings, students who may choose to suddenly stay at home, teachers who may already have compromised immune systems, and many of them who have their own kids to worry about, and most people realize that it is a first responder situation for a forest fire with changing wind patterns.

Geez! And I didn’t even mention the handful of parents that teachers have to deal with each year who are convinced their child is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the those few students who make the educator realize there is something more painful to deal with than a root canal.

In my opinion, teachers are the new heroes, the new frontline workers facing the new adversary. And this school year, they will also be the new learners, receiving a new kind of education that they never received in college classes for education majors.

Perhaps we need a “Teacher Appreciation Year”, not just a “Teacher Appreciation Week”!

children sitting on brown chairs inside the classroom

Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on

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