Letter to the editor: Teachers really are our heroes

All that is right with Bristol elementary school…

I’ve met some heroes. My brother is involved in humanitarian efforts in Kabul, Afghanistan, as we speak. My boyhood mentor was a man who survived the Nazi deaths camps in World War II by tending to the ill under the cover of night only to be punished with torture the next morning.

Full disclosure, I never thought teachers deserved to be in that category. I always held them in high regard. But heroes? It seemed histrionic.

This year, I just spent nine months working for the Mount Abraham Unified School District in Lincoln Community School and Bristol Elementary School. My son has attended both: Bristol K-4th and Lincoln 5th and 6th.

I have been able to see what it’s like for your children and what it’s like when no one knows you’re watching. And I want to inform you of my observations…

I have seen moments of kindness between students and teachers that have been inspiring. I want you to know that, from my perspective, your child’s safety is held in the highest regard. I have been impressed with the level of grace and humor in which teachers and support staff operate due to the stress of educating and managing myriad levels of interactions amid mounting responsibilities and pressure.

Many years ago, I would have agreed with you if you told me teachers had a relatively easy schedule (holidays and summers off, etc.)

But they only do in theory. They are there on a regular basis, many hours after school, many summer days, and spend many more hours at home working as advocates for children and families.

Case in point: I overheard a conversation where a teacher was working on the logistics of getting food to the home of a family whose child demonstrated severe food insecurity. This type of advocacy was a daily occurrence. Far beyond what we pay them to do.

Not only are these teachers working to educate our children and offer support to families, they do it without having the luxury of a bad day. Many of us can have a bad day. They cannot. Their margin for error is nonexistent. Our community demands in our teachers the best possible version of themselves every day. How many of us can say we could do that? These teachers can…and do! The cynic will scoff at such ostensible optimism but I say to them, only those deeply motivated by an unquantifiable calling are equipped to wrestle the Leviathan.

Sometimes it’s hard to see excellence when it’s been normalized. I used to think a certain way about the police. That was until I did several ride-alongs with them. I urge you to do the same with teachers. It’s the best way to face your presumptions head on.

And with some of the press lately at Bristol Elementary, the presumptions abound. Before you really know what you’re talking about, I suggest you volunteer in a class for several weeks. Only then will you be really informed enough to draw an opinion. Bristol Elementary School is still largely the same as when my son attended. The staff has remained mostly intact. So what has changed in the three years since my son attended Bristol? COVID and a unified school district. I ask each of you to look deeply into the impact these variables have had on our present incarnation. I am able to speak only to the former, and its repercussions run far deeper than you could possibly imagine.

I am not qualified to speak of the administration but, in their defense, I have met several in administrative roles who are doing the best they can.

Teachers, however, have become the front line in the challenge to maintain the fabric of our society as we knew it before the pandemic. They are more intuitively calibrated to the barometer of neglect, pain, suffering, abuse and hopelessness that many children face daily. When speaking, they should be heard.

With the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight, I have seen their resources diminished but not their resolve. It is unbelievable. I tell them they are performing heroically. They do not think so. You know who thinks that way? Heroes.

Happy Holidays. Consider taking a moment to gather and reflect on what is positive in our community.

Colin M. McClung


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