In Defense of Teachers

As school districts opened across the state in August, it was with a spectrum of emotions, ranging from joy to angst.

Emotions often ran warm, as every district took a localized approach to re-opening in the face of the pandemic. An early August meeting of the Lincoln Public Schools Board of Education saw nearly 60 people address the board. Many were educators, genuinely concerned about the district re-opening plan. Some patrons, however, criticized teachers.

Lincoln Education Association President Rita Bennett was second to address the board at the beginning of the meeting. She then stayed until nearly midnight and was the final speaker. Here is her note to LEA members the next morning.

With the clock nearing midnight at the school board meeting, I had more I needed to say. I scrawled out some quick thoughts and decided there would be one more public comment. I wanted to have the last word in response to some of the vitriol directed at teachers last night. Here are my remarks:

“A lot of teachers spoke here tonight. A lot of others did, too. Teachers are the least selfish, most selfless people with whom I have the pleasure to work, and I am proud to be one of them.

“The criticism I’ve heard both from public comments and others tonight is exactly what teachers don’t need right now. The fact is they are being placed into a situation that everyone here acknowledges is not a zero-risk environment in the midst of a catastrophic and historic pandemic, all because we love and care for and teach our community’s children.

“This community has a strong tradition of support for Lincoln Public Schools and for those who work within it. It is heartbreaking to hear teachers criticized as evil, exaggerating, or making up stories. All because we dare to want to do our jobs the best we can while we stay safe and healthy, and because we want to make sure our schools aren’t the incubator for keeping our community held hostage to the pandemic that could have been defeated by now had more people in our community, state, and country had as much heart and commitment as our teachers.

“All who clamor for normalcy and the return to school are imagining a school experience that isn’t even possible as we open our doors tomorrow.

“Teachers want nothing more than to be back with their students. To demonize us for long-term lesson planning for procedures that will actually get everything back to normal sooner for our entire community is not something we should have to apologize for. Our hearts remain with our students, families, and our community. Every day. Now. Always.”