We did not know how much we needed you until you were gone.
Last year, we handed our little ones over to you amidst the bustle of the morning rush. Some of us would smile freshly as we said goodbye. Others would shove our kids in your direction, for you to deal with. We’d be having ‘one of those days’. You never had ‘one of those days’. No matter what, you greeted each of us with a winning smile. We know now that being a teacher means you have no choice but to beam. Having ‘one of those days’ is simply not an option.
Back in March 2020, we were thrown in the deep end and asked to do your job – or at least a small part of it. There is no point in lying. It was next to impossible. Impossible to bring forth that same energy that you do every day, in order to encourage our children and get them excited about learning. Impossible to rapidly learn the expertise it takes to hold their attention and enrich their minds. Impossible to remain patient when they could not understand or refused to carry out a task.
We all struggled. Instagram may have made it look easy. The class WhatsApp group might have given us the impression that other parents were doing a wonderful job. This was not the case most of the time. None of us could have taught our own children the way you did. Many of us gave up, throwing the towel in when it all became too much. Sacrificing homeschool for a good night sleep or a civilised family dinner. These were the days we longed for you. For your colourful classroom, your creative ideas and your reliable structure. For the normalcy and routine of handing them over so you could do your thing and hand them back happy, raving about something new they learned from you that day.
If we learned anything from months in lockdown with our kids, it was that even an hour spent engaging actively with children is exhausting. Anyone working under the ever-scrutinous eyes of kids must have supernatural powers. Teacher-mode, as my partner and I called it in lockdown, is a super-power.
COVID-19 changed all of our lives. However, as a teacher, you now willingly expose yourself to more contacts than any other sector each day, in order to educate our children and to give us back the routine we need.
On this, World Teacher Day, it is time to thank you openly for taking on this job – one we know you are not as well-reimbursed for as you should be. One that requires superpowers, smiles and endless patience. Now more than ever, we owe you our gratitude. For a long time we couldn't see your smile anymore, but we knew it was always there, hidden under the mask you wore - and it was just as powerful.