parent opinion

‘Here’s the thing: In 2020, teachers are not at their best. And neither are parents.’

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

Dear Teachers and parents,

In case you haven’t already worked it out, 2020 is NOT your time to shine.  I mean it.

Ask any teacher in an Australian school and, if they have the energy to speak, they’ll tell you Term 1 was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  In my fifteen years of teaching, I’ve never known another like it. I carried (and often dropped) my own emotional load and tried to help students manage theirs. Sometimes we tackled the curriculum.

One night, taking a little break, I happened on a Facebook post by a parent from the school my own child attends.  This mother was feeling overwhelmed trying to help her kids learn at home. They were missing deadlines and the stress was mounting. The comments echoed her frustration. “There has to be a better way. The school needs to sort this out,” someone declared.  

I imagined a barrage of angry emails to the school and felt my heart breaking for those teachers.

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I could certainly sympathise with the parents. But I hated the thought of them taking up virtual pitch forks against teachers who were already exhausted. Staff who’d endured endless debates about school closures, carried out with little regard for their health, safety or morale. Teachers who had been given literally zero time to prepare online content – and were madly scrambling to do so whilst continuing to run face-to-face classes. The teacher in me became super-defensive.

Then the parent in me got her turn.  

The tables were turned by a notice from my child’s teacher. A major assessment was due in two days.  He had not started it and there was no way he would finish in time. How had I missed that? How had my son missed that?

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I heard myself say, “This is ridiculous.  Of course he’s struggling to stay on top of his work. The school needs to sort this out.”  I had worked up a head of angry steam for my fellow teachers, but now I was annoyed on behalf of parents.  

I was trying so hard to help my kids “keep up” without a clear sense of what that looked like, how to do it, or if it was even necessary.  Would Term 1 count? Would exams go ahead? Was it better to catch up on missed work or let it go and vow to do better thereafter? 

My parent self was feeling as wretched as my teacher self.  And my two selves kind of hated each other.

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Here’s the thing. In 2020, teachers are not at their best. Parents are not at their best. And expecting students to be at their best is patently ridiculous.  

So why was this not acknowledged some time ago?  What if, instead of urging us to keep things as normal as possible, the powers that be had granted us permission to suck? (Vanessa Amorosi should definitely record this song, but I digress.)

Seriously – imagine if someone at the top had told us it was okay to be a bit rubbish for a while. How differently would we all be feeling right now?  

“Wow, everyone! This is steaming pile of poo, isn’t it? [Applause]. Let’s take some time to get our heads around what’s going on, shall we? All formal assessment is temporarily suspended. [Louder applause]. Now, who needs chocolate?” [Cheering is actually deafening.]

They say this pandemic is a once-in-a-century event. If by some chance you’re reading this in the year 2120 and you’re the Education Minister, I am more than happy for you to use the above script in a crisis. Please do – you will be a mental health superhero.  

Meanwhile, here I am: a teacher and parent in 2020.  This is not my time to shine. I’m just going to do my best.  

I won’t achieve my best. And that’s okay.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus – How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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