By Cindy Farren | December 1, 2020
As I watched the news on a crisp early March morning, I heard a story about a young police officer who had contracted COVID-19. Interviewed from his hospital bed, he looked tired and worn out. He had visited the hospital several days earlier but was turned away, told he had the flu or fatigue. He continued to work for several days until, again, he ended up in the hospital, this time testing positive with a recently acquired COVID test.
He talked about how his neighbors were shunning his family. How hurt his children felt when made fun of at school. I prayed for him and his family as I thought about the big pitch-in dinner I attended the day before with my son's college baseball team, their opponents, and their families. Two weeks later, I welcomed my son home for the semester to quarantine with his parents instead of enjoying his sophomore year on campus, hanging out with his pals. The world has changed since then.
The first few families to endure the COVID nightmare alone and afraid have now been joined by more than a few hundred thousand families. The colleges, high schools, and elementary schools closed down and students fled back to their homes to continue their education from the kitchen table.
I watched and listened to all the teachers who transitioned as quickly as possible from classroom to computer. I listened as they taught their own children, as well as the thirty girls and boys they had in class. I watched as young mothers began to work from home while supporting teacher instruction for their school-aged children, all while entertaining toddlers—who were also home, as daycares and babysitters became a thing of the past.
And then, my former students, new and seasoned, started calling.
I watched as my graduate students and alumni did something that made me proud. They reached down deep and got to work. They found humor between the moments of sadness and frustration. They worked together to bridge the gap left by the "new normal" of isolation and virtual classrooms. They laughed as they cried, and they saved their best stories for their saddest moments and then shared them with others who knew their pain. These teachers worried about their students; they wondered if they were eating well and staying healthy. They agonized about the effectiveness and engagement level of the curriculum they designed and presented. They knew they were good teachers but were they good enough to take their curriculum online and still make a difference? They were brave, dedicated, and focused. They are my heroes.
Never in my life have I seen so many teachers step up and step out to make a difference. They delivered computers; they visited their students (separated by six feet) just to check on them. They worked together to build strategies and share resources to lighten the load. They even thought up games to play online.
Yes, I also got "those" calls. Yes, there were tears. And, yes, they survived the first crazy months of a now raging pandemic. They were, for their students, the lighthouse in the distance during a fierce storm. They were shining bright in the darkness of the unknown, making sure their students could safely navigate to safe shores.
Looking back on those first weeks last March, I couldn't have guessed where we would be today. But I know I could have predicted that teachers would step up to make each day of their students' quarantine meaningful and successful. I knew they would learn to high five and hug from afar. I knew they cried for the students who had gone silent. But, most of all, I was and still am, thankful for their courage, their perseverance, and their commitment. I saw you.
Their strength was inspiring, and I wondered what I could do to help. As if my former and current graduate students were my children, my sense of pride in their dedication and commitment was overwhelming. But my helplessness to make things better kept me up at night.
I started looking for resources for my special education teachers: resources about FERPA, progress monitoring online, and collaborating with general education teachers, to name a few. I thought about their mental health and fatigue. Not only for the educators who had given so much but for their students and their parents. My list kept growing with resources branching out as categories like limbs on a big old oak tree sitting strong and free in a field. (Look for this resource website to be rolled out soon.)
There will be a place you can come to review resources and pick and choose based on your needs. Even once this pandemic has passed, this website will still be available and providing support for resource rooms and online programming for the very teachers it was designed for. They are my heroes.