There is not a demographic on the planet that has been unaffected by COVID-19.
With summer fast approaching, I want to focus on educators, administrators and support staff who have had to balance stress, fatigue, learning-curve and anxieties – all with a chipper smile on their faces.
You were asked to abandon decades of experience and training in order to try a virtual learning experience that we did not know would work.
We then asked you to help children engage critical thinking skills over Zoom, teach long division, music and art over video, upload content to a server that may or may not accept your video format, juggle an internet bandwidth that may or may not be strong enough to support your synchronous class times, and be accessible to parents who needed extra support, knowing they may or may not be assisting their children’s learning.
We then asked you to keep doing that work while also bringing students back in person with a protocol-heavy, socially distanced classroom environment and asked you to manage all of this with a smile on your face.
We did not know how often you would need to make sure the students washed their hands, sat indoors without masks or even touched the playground equipment.
We did not know if this kind of work would be a health risk to you or your family. We did not know how many extra hours you would have to put in to calculate grades, attendance or to do a simple assignment.
In truth, we did not know what we were asking of you. But we still asked it of you.
As parents, we were desperately trying to balance our lives and schedules while working from home and attending to our children’s basic needs.
We had no space for your anxieties. We just needed you to do what it is we have come to expect of you: Take our kids. Teach them. Feed them. Love them. Let us know if anything is wrong.
And you did all of this brilliantly and exceedingly well.
I am sure you are entering this summer knowing you did not get it all done. I am sure you are wishing you could have changed this one thing or done this other thing instead. I am sure you are questioning if you made a positive difference.
As a parent and religious leader, I want you to know that you have.
Most kids are tearing up as they think about how much they will miss you during the summer.
Even in a global pandemic when we removed all of your teaching tools, you still showed them love. You showed them care.
You entered into the most anxiety-producing time in a family’s life and calmed the rough waters of our fears without burdening us with yours.
You showed up, knowing it would be a thankless job and that many parents were ill-equipped to support our children’s education, and you did it brilliantly and exceedingly well.
As I reflect over the last year from a religious perspective, I cannot help but be grateful for our nation’s teachers.
You brought hope to communities that needed a bright light by modeling deep and abiding love, which I would argue is holy.
You created sacred space for students to be heard, to be known and to feel valued, which I would argue is also holy.
So, thank you.
The weeks you get for a summer break are well-deserved. I know it will not be long enough for the trauma this year has caused you, but I do hope it is relaxing.
I hope you can let go of the stress you have been holding (even if it is momentary) and that you can experience Sabbath (holy rest).
I hope you can look yourself in the mirror and see someone who modeled grace, love, empathy and care.
I hope you can see someone who has been brilliant and performed their job exceedingly well.
Finally, I hope you know (even though it took us a while), that we have all noticed and that we are grateful for you.
We could not have made it through this year without you. Rest well. You have earned it.
Senior pastor of First Baptist Waynesboro in Waynesboro, Virginia. He is a member of Good Faith Media’s strategic advisory board.