“This isn’t what I signed up for.”
While just background noise on the television, I heard a reporter interviewing a classroom teacher. The teacher, holding a sign that read “No Vaccine, No School!” spoke with impulsive emotion.
Unlike doctors, educators don’t take an oath before taking the job. After years of training, educators are granted a license by the state and hired by a district. Nevertheless, there is a covenant – an implicit promise – that elite educators keep. We serve our students; we take all reasonable means to prepare the next generation. In short, we stand up and own our actions; we make a difference every day.
Just two short years ago, our district conducted a full-scale safety drill with police and first responders. With colleagues made-up to mimic wounded victims and others blockading doors to keep out a violent intruder – the exercise was frightening. We didn’t sign-up to be educators to prevent a deadly shooting in our schools, but we answer the call to be prepared for the unimaginable. We pray our training will never be necessary, but we are ready to respond with skill.
A well-documented story unfolded just three years ago when a student was discovered plotting and recruiting co-conspirators, for a mass shooting event. We didn’t sign-up to foil violent incidents, but we answer the bell to prevent tragedy. We’ve had sharpshooters on buildings during homecoming football games and undercover law enforcement at pep rallies. As educators, we do what’s required of us. We serve and keep our students safe.
Our commitment to our students’ social-emotional needs is codified in our policies, plans, and goals. Mental health and well-being are targeted focus areas- a focus equal to academic progress and physical health. Teachers are counselors; they are guides on a student’s journey. Many didn’t “sign-up” to be a wellness counselor, but it is now an essential job requirement.
We prepare our students for success in a rapidly changing world. Our jobs – our commitment as educators – have new demands every year. Covid-19 has rocked our world. This virus is going to be part of our lives for years to come. Nearly every aspect of normal-life has been disrupted; we have all been impacted in many ways.
There is nothing fair about what we are facing today; we are all experiencing a loss. We grieve for the security and certainty we crave. Some people are fearful of the future, while others more willingly accept a certain level of risk. Professional adults are struggling with reality – and now, more than ever, our students need us.
No one signed-up for living in a world with Covid-19; we are amid a global pandemic. Our implicit promise – as professionals – is that we serve our students. We take every reasonable step to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. We act with purpose and skill; we are meticulous in our planning and steadfast with our safety precautions. We demand social distancing, barriers, and masks. As professionals, we step-up and answer the bell. Our community has a renewed appreciation for our profession. I continue to be impressed with the work of our teachers. As one teacher said to me today, “we’ve got this.”
I didn’t sign up for this, but I will do what is required of me during a time of great crisis. We are purpose-driven and focused on children.