Coronavirus: Teaching  Us To Appreciate What We Took For Granted

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce

By BettyLou DeCroce

The worst of the coronavirus virus will eventually pass and we will begin to resume more normal routines.  What we have experienced from the pandemic, however, will influence our lives and our perceptions for years to come; and not just in negative ways.

One of the things we learned from social distancing is that people matter more in our lives than we thought. When it’s difficult or impossible to see friends and family, the role they play in our lives becomes greater than we imagined.

Being confined to our neighborhoods has its drawbacks and frustrations, but it has also opened up for many of us new opportunities to meet people who live only a few hundred feet away. The young couple with the toddlers, the retired gentlemen across the street, the young woman who walks the dog each morning; they have all gone from being strangers to new fixtures in our lives.

And because of the coronavirus we are also coming to appreciate people who carry out important jobs who were often anonymous to us. The mail carriers, the UPS driver, the man behind the fish counter at the supermarket and the cashier who rings up our groceries are no longer nameless bodies that we take for granted. They are important to our lives

However, among the most dedicated group keeping our towns and counties running somewhat normally are our educators — the teachers, principals, administrators, aides, and support workers. They live under the same social distancing constraints that we do while continuing to do the important job of helping our children learn.

School closures have impacted nearly 55 million public school students nationwide, according to data from Education Week. That’s a lot of children and young adults who need a creative approach to education.

Now that virtual is the new normal, educators have to create unique approaches to help students understand what are often abstract concepts. In the classroom educators have tools available to them that they don’t have in their living room or den, which is now their remote classroom. In a classroom, the educators have personal contact that can spot the perplexed child and help him or her work to develop a greater understanding of a subject or a concept. That’s missing now.

Showing their ingenuity educators are using homemade videos and other tools they are devising to teach young students basic math concepts like addition and subtraction as well as more advanced subjects like history and chemistry.

Complicating effective distance teaching is the makeup of many families. It’s not only kids that need the computer, but also mom and dad –  many of whom are working from home. Further complicating the distance learning objective is that — even in homes with more than one computer –- children of different ages need to log on to their daily instructions. They all can’t do it at the same time. Recognizing the logistical realities some educators are pre-recording their class lessons to be played back when computer access at home is available.

And while putting a lot of time and creativity into making sure our children are still learning, the average teacher is contending with his or her own children at home. Are they getting fed? Are they doing their lessons? Are they being entertained? Did one of them just bolt out the door, where is he going?

We are all living lives we could not have imagined a few short months ago. What was unimportant or taken for granted in January is a lot more critical to us now. One thing we can never take for granted, however, is the important role that educators play in our lives. While we are at work, pursuing our goals, educators are shaping and preparing the lives of those most precious to us – our children.

National Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated in New Jersey from May 4 to May 8. This year let’s show an extra special measure of gratitude for our educators who are answering the call to duty in an extraordinary time of crisis. 

BettyLou DeCroce is a member of the NJ General Assembly and represents people in Morris, Essex and Passaic Counties