I have always been one for countdowns. As a little girl, I was well known for creating paper chains in order to count down to big events- the winter break, a big birthday, and of course, summer break. I know that many of us are counting down the days to some sort of relief as this has been one of the most challenging years, both personally and professionally, that we have ever experienced. While it may not feel like there is light at the end of this very long tunnel, we have to remember that we have been providing the light for so many.
As we near the one-year mark of teaching and learning in the midst of a global pandemic coupled with on-going racial, social and economic injustices, it can be hard to feel that there is hope on the horizon. Oftentimes when one is in the middle of something, it is hard to look clearly ahead or behind. When I look back and reflect on this past year, there is the pain of loss, and despair that we have all endured, but there are also reminders that bring me comfort and optimism.
I do not think that I will ever get over the awe I have when I think of the heavy lift each of you has done. Literally overnight, you adjusted the entire way of performing your craft. You found ways to connect with kids to ensure their learning, health and safety, whether it was from your kitchen table, a closet, in a socially distanced classroom with a mask on, in a school cafeteria half-full or on a school bus with one student per seat. We have all made, what sometimes felt like constant, changes, adjustments, and sacrifices to make education happen this year. While getting to this point should certainly be lauded, we all know that it has not been easy and has come at a tremendous cost.
If nothing else comes out of this, I hope that what does come from it is a lasting and renewed respect for the education profession and those who choose to do this work. While most of the things that we have been experiencing this year are not new because of COVID-19, they have all been exacerbated because of it. A bright light has been shone upon the inequities that exist in the public education system and the critical role of our public schools in our communities has been illuminated. We have seen the power and the purpose of educators and my greatest hope is that the world does not forget. For now, there is an opportunity not to just return to “normal” or simply “get back” to school. Now is our opportunity to ensure that the schools our students and we return to are better. It is our moment to envision and demand the future that we know our students and educators deserve. Yes, I am counting down to that day and I am confident that it will come. The day when you, the public school educators of Colorado, are treated and respected as the professionals that you are. The day that count down arrives, will be the best one yet.
Amie Baca-Oehlert is a high school counselor and president of the CEA.