Written by Greg O’Loughlin, High School Teacher and Founder/Director of The Educators’ Cooperative
*originally published on December 8, 2020
It is difficult to describe the professionalism, dedication, and flexibility demonstrated by teachers throughout the day, every day. Whether teaching virtually, in-person, in a hybrid model, or in a mix of models that changes week to week, teachers are making magic happen with a indefatigable dedication to the food security, the social and emotional well being, the safety, and to the learning of the children of the city of Nashville.
We hear from them every night on our Collaborates Calls where teachers from schools all over the Middle Tennessee area and beyond connect for hour-long workshops that serve to support the work, entirely for teachers, by teachers.
In one of our recent workshops, attendees put their heads and hearts together to help a participating teacher create ways to continue to challenge some of her more advanced students while still juggling the extra hours needed to redesign assessments for a virtual setting while meeting the needs of students who are struggling with not only connectivity issues, but with learning differences that require additional support.
In another nightly workshop, a teacher described how taking the time to text dozens of parents every morning nearly doubled her daily class attendance. The formal system of reporting an absence usually takes at least a day to send an alert, and that’s an easy game for cunning students to figure out. “It is a ton of extra work, but it means that I get more time with my kiddos every day, and they’re worth it.”
And in yet another of our nightly calls, we were lucky to collaborate with teachers calling in from China. Through a translator, we discussed practices we were developing to help juggle all of the new additional responsibilities teachers all over the world have never been responsible for before this health emergency. One of the more beautiful ideas our guest teachers shared was that many Chinese cities derive their sense of pride and identity from how well-supported their schools and teachers are. The reverence, respect, and consideration of their teachers is first and foremost in the city’s decision making and sense of community.
These stories don’t get headlines, and to be fair, they aren’t even that unusual in the life of a teacher. They are but a few of the dozens and dozens of examples of teachers going above above and beyond to support their students and their families that we discuss and nurture through our EdCo Collaborates program.
It can be hard for amazing work and positive stories to break through into the headlines, twitter feeds, and discourse. Political news develops at breathtaking speed, bested only by news of vaccines, transmission rates, and epidemiology, all of which are essential and urgent, and all of which short change the type of positive attention teachers deserve.
The next time you hear a neighbor, friend, or a colleague describe frustration with a decision about how a school will or will not meet, remind them of these stories. The next time you read a headline that focuses on the difficulties facing our schools, know that you may not be getting the full picture. Educators are working on the front lines of this rapidly changing health pandemic teaching, serving, caring for, and supporting students no matter what.
We might also try borrowing a page from our Chinese colleagues and consider the condition of our city based on how well our schools, teachers, and students are doing. If we are not prioritizing their wellness, safety, and health in our decision making, what does that say about what we value more than them?
Centering the safety of teachers, schools, and students in our outlook and decision making leads to a Nashville that demonstrates a true commitment to community. We know it’s possible, and if you are looking for an example of what it looks like to value the safety, well-being, development, and growth of your neighbor as highly as your own, look no further than the actions of the teachers in and around this city. We are teaching lessons every day about the importance of centering community through our actions, commitment, and dedication. We hope to see you in class.
The Educators’ Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. Created for teachers by teachers in 2016, EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages. EdCo aims to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the essential agency, autonomy, and common ground all teachers share. EdCo is based in Nashville, Tennessee with a reach far beyond that physical location and potential for replication in communities throughout the nation. When educators collaborate, the future of education is greater than the sum of its parts.
Please visit educatorscooperative.com for more information and to sign up for our newsletter.