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Teachers have really stepped up

At the beginning of the pandemic, two long years ago, when we were all trying to set up remote learning and parents had to adopt the behaviors of in-the-home classroom teachers in addition to everything else they were figuring out at the time, I remember thinking the experience would make all of us appreciate teachers more.

I am not sure that happened. Which is why the words that follow spoke to me … I hope they do the same for you. They were written by a middle school principal whose name is David Getz, and they were published in his letter to the editor (New York Times, Jan. 31, 2022). The piece was titled “A Dinner Party Analogy.”

It begins with the question, “What is it like teaching during Omicron?”

“Imagine you are assigned to cater a dinner party. You don’t know how many people are expected to show up. You are given a list of the guests, their allergies, food preferences, who is vegan, kosher, halal. Perhaps half the guests will stay home. You will know who is coming to dinner only when you open your door. You are expected to provide an excellent dinner regardless of who is present to enjoy it.

“The next night you are scheduled to have another party with the same guests. But with a slightly different menu. Something that builds upon the previous meal. Except for the people who didn’t show up for the first party. They need to have the meal they missed and the new meal. Again, you will not know who is coming to your dinner party until you open your door. And those people who are still at home need to have all the meals they missed. Even if they don’t have an appetite.”

But this is not a “those poor teachers” piece. The writer goes on to remind the reader of something quite real in a very practical way. He does not leave his subject without giving it a salute. He shares his further observations as he visits actual classrooms where “teachers are thoroughly engaged in their works” and students enthusiastic about the topics at hand. He tells us he hears “laughter and animated conversations, complex discussions and thoughtful questions.” He reminds us that if we were to visit those classrooms with him, we would “see learning taking place.”

I am a retired teacher, so I have a little bias around this topic. In addition, in earlier years I was known to put forth am impressive dinner party. I get it.

I totally understand and admire what this writer is saying and could easily expand on the analogy — using references about what you do with the “leftovers” or “untouched food.” I might mention how fatigued one feels after giving a dinner party — make that “parties.” And how exhilarated you feel when it all comes together.

If you as teacher/host are trying to please different palates, there is even more dinner prep, and if the materials you need are not available or accessible — or cost too much — what do you substitute?

If fatigue forces you to back away entirely, who steps up? Speaking of steps — the first one is acknowledgment.

Sharon Johnson is a retired educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.