LETTER: Learn from difficult year

I noticed that my image was used for a follow-up story regarding the reopening of our public schools (March 28). I wish I could have been interviewed in person so that the public could read a firsthand account from an actual teacher who works in the classroom.

To say this last year has been rough is an understatement. All stakeholders, students, parents and the school district have been challenged in ways that were forced upon us. Everyone had to “move their cheese,” and get out of their comfort zone.

Parents and students were probably most in a quandary about how academic learning was going to look. We, the teachers, were forced to sink or swim with what was handed to us. Our campus administration has been extremely supportive and positive. I can honestly say that the district offered us a lot of technology training starting the summer of 2020. We had to prepare to remain professional and offer our community the peace of mind that our children were getting the second-best form of education barring brick-andmortar, face-to-face instruction.

I have been an educator for almost 36 years. I thought I had seen it all. This pandemic has been so devastating to our profession. The demands placed on our shoulders could on some days bring us down to our knees. Many days we went home so frustrated and disillusioned but not defeated. Every week we come back and fight the good fight. The year is almost over but some cracks in the system have become more prevalent from the pandemic’s wrath.

Parental involvement has always been crucial and an important backbone to a student’s learning and development. We totally empathized with parents who lost jobs or had to go to their jobs and depend on their children to do their online classes. Teachers were always expected to communicate with parents. To date, I have made approximately 1,070 phone calls. Some numbers had full mailboxes, no voicemail set up, restricted or invalid numbers. We understand that many parents got frustrated with us trying to reach them to remind their children to log on.

Students, the primary stakeholders, faced so many challenges. At this age, the social and emotional needs of a teen can be so fragile. Kids had trouble facing a screen all day and not having the ability to decompress from the demands they typically must endure. However, their job was to attend class to learn and be prepared for the academic challenges that they still need to master. Yet, some students failed to log in or attempt their assignments, and therefore find themselves failing this year. So, I ask: Can we learn from our failures? I believe we can. Parents, students and the school district cannot and should not want students to be promoted solely for the purpose of passing them on. I believe our goal is to strive for learning to have taken place. The return to school is an absolute for us to get back to “normalcy,” but realistically we must accept that there are gaps, and we must go back to the basics. Students should attend summer school face to face. Students should repeat the year if necessary. Parents should support what is best for their children, not just try to keep up with the “Perezes.” Teachers should continue to learn and keep up with new modes of teaching. This letter does not come close to detailing what this year has been like for this teacher. I can tell you that I have more grey hairs now and more worry wrinkles than I did over the summer. Be kind to a teacher, because this year has been extremely taxing on us.

Maria Elena Abete Brownsville