An Open Letter to America’s Educators
A response to the COVID-19 upheaval
By Charles Sosnik
Relax. You are okay.
Everything is going to be okay.
We know these are uncertain times. As the people who are responsible for delivering education to the children of our nation, you have been carrying quite a burden. You may not be sleeping much, and you are, no doubt, working through the rigors of a temporary new normal in your personal and family life as well as shouldering the responsibility for your school, district, or state. It is a lot to handle, and the situation causes uncertainty and even fear of the decisions you are making.
First, you and others with you will rise to the occasion. You were trained for this. Your education, available resources, and remarkable passion are the three cornerstones for your decision-making and will guarantee that you are up to the task.
Second, as a nation, we will pull together to give you the energy, funding, and support that you need to see this through. We have been through much worse. Few of you are old enough to remember the second world war. Our nation was attacked on two fronts. It was a time when the very security of our citizens was in peril, and those who were sent abroad to fight really didn’t know if we would prevail. But to a person, America was galvanized behind the war effort, and we not only rose to the challenge, but our country also became the world leader in almost every measurable category of security, progress, and economic recovery.
We did not ask for the situation we were handed, but we turned those unfathomable circumstances into victory and then opportunity, and we created a new reality that moved forward the needle of prosperity, equity, and opportunity. We faced what we were given and established a better world through our ingenuity, talent, collective wisdom, and efforts.
We did it together. Even the soldiers were not alone. My mother in law, the late Armada Nelson, was a teenager during the war. She wrote and received over 500 letters to the soldiers, keeping them company and reminding them what they were fighting for. The simple act of one young girl brought comfort to so many soldiers on the line. Women were working in the factories, helping to produce planes, ships, and all the other requirements necessary for us to succeed. Bonds were sold to raise money. Whatever our country needed, we did.
COVID-19 is not an invasion of our Pacific fleet, nor is it a European aggressor threatening to destroy much of the world’s population and way of life. It is, however, an enemy that has successfully threatened our economy and killed more people than the Viet Nam and Korean conflicts. But more importantly, COVID-19 has changed the way we view ourselves and the world. Many of us feel that the world is changed, and our way of life, including the way we educate our children, is irrevocably changed.
There are many things we cannot control. We have to have faith in our leaders and support them in their times of uncertainty. It is easy to forget that everyone from the president to our governors to our mayors is an elected representative who has now found himself or herself in a very difficult position. Like you and I, they will rise to the occasion with our help and support. We will get through this because our leaders are not alone. Like us, they will face this challenge, and we will prevail. Allow them to control the things they can control, and we will do the same. We have an opportunity to remake education, to modernize it, and to create an education system that will prepare our learners for the futures they will face. Even before the Coronavirus, we all knew that it was time to make changes. Perhaps we felt the politics of running a district were just to complex to make the changes that were needed. Perhaps we were worn down and just too tired to change. Perhaps.
But now, everything is on the table. Because of the COVID crisis, no one is talking about the “why not.” We are all focused on the possibility. Every challenge is a hurdle to be overcome. We are no longer lamenting that equity is impossible. Now we look at the lack of equity, and we ask, “what do we need to do to fix it?” That is our predicament. And that is our opportunity.
The Learning Counsel has been furiously conducting national discussions on almost every aspect of the education recovery, and smart, earnest, talented, and inspired education leaders are coming to the table with real solutions. To date, the Learning Counsel has conducted a dozen national discussions, and America’s most inspired education leaders are joining the discussion as speakers, attendees, and sponsors of the discussions. Passion reigns supreme, and nothing is off the table. It is almost as if everyone in education knows this is a turning point, and we can have the education system our children need and deserve. It is a powerful thing to watch and an even more powerful thing in which to become involved.
One of my favorite movies is Network. The lead character, Howard Beale, inspired the country to go to their windows, open them up, and yell, “I’m as mad a Hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” What I wouldn’t give for a Howard Beale right now, but the message we need has changed. Now America, and in particular its educators, are going to their windows, opening them up, and shouting, “Our children are finally getting what they need!” I may need to work on that a bit; it’s not quite as catchy as “I’m as mad as Hell.” But you get the picture.
As educators, this is our time. The incredible upheaval to our education system caused by COVID-19 is our war. And America is with us. I know you are tired. So am I. But I am also grateful. Grateful for you and the job you are doing. And remember, you are not alone. You have the love and respect of your teachers, your students, their parents, and your communities. We have faith in you, and we will support your decisions and your policies. We will stand with you as you ask, “What do we need to do to fix this?” And we will. Together, we will create the kind of education system that is the envy of the world, and then we will share it with them. All students everywhere will be raised, and their hopes and dreams will become a reality.
Because remember, you are okay.
Everything is going to be okay.
This article originally appeared on The Learning Counsel.