Sanzi: Thank you, R.I. teachers

Sanzi: Thank you, R.I. teachers

To the teachers of Rhode Island,

Many of you probably don’t realize that the hard work you’ve been doing for the past two months is not the norm throughout the country. You have led the way while other cities and states have been painfully slow in keeping students connected to school and to learning. Perhaps you assumed that teachers everywhere were tasked with the same lightning-fast transition to distance learning that you were.

But that is not the case.

Millions of students have gotten nothing more than “enrichment.” And countless other students have simply gotten nothing: No instruction, no check-ins from their teachers, no assignments.

Nothing.

Gov. Raimondo and Education Commissioner Infante-Green were fast off the blocks with their commitment to the belief that “some learning is better than no learning” and you have taken those words and run with them, ensuring that R.I.’s children know that school is in session, their presence valued, their work required. It is messy and imperfect – but it is absolutely better than nothing.

Think about all the students and parents across this nation who feel forgotten by their schools. The reasons for those failures vary but I hope you all take pride in knowing that your students have not been forgotten, that you have honored them by not throwing in the towel on learning.

We know you didn’t sign up to work this way. You aren’t used to only seeing your students’ faces on screens, unable to hug them, high-five them or give them that look that says “I know you can do better” or “I believe in you” or a recent R.I. favorite, “knock it off.” Some of you have been in the classroom for many years and, in the blink of an eye, you felt your confidence waver as the job you’ve known for decades suddenly took you out of your classroom and onto virtual platforms that you had never used before.

Many of you were managing your own children’s transition to remote learning while also becoming a first time “virtual teacher” yourselves. Others of you were gearing up to coach teams, only to learn that your long-awaited season was not going to happen. Music and theater teachers who spent day and night preparing for upcoming shows and performances were forced to accept that, this time, the show wouldn’t go on.

But still, you’ve shown up for your students. Just as we parents are figuring things out on the home front, your efforts have helped to maintain a bit of normalcy during a time that feels anything but normal.

Rhode Island got this right and that would not have been possible without you.

Thank you, teachers.

Erika Sanzi

Sanzi is a former educator and school committee member who writes about education at Project Forever Free and Good School Hunting and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.