Dear educator,With love,
We took you for granted for too long. It’s taken us a pandemic to realize how crucial a role you play in taking care of and providing guidance to what we hold most sacred – our children and youth. This alone would be enough to express our full gratitude to you. But you’ve done much more than that: you’ve created environments and fostered relationships that help our children learn, connect with others, and grow. For over a year now, you have taken up an impossible task: creating space – physically and online – for our children to find stability, safety, and learning opportunities while our and your worlds are being shaken up. You’ve been doing this with little to no additional resources, support or guidance, putting your own life on the line in service of other people’s children. I get a front row seat to your impact every day. My kids are more excited for school than ever before. Their “I don’t want to go to school” of the past is now “when do we get to go to school?” That takes more than simply showing up, it takes the effort, energy, and masterful practice of people like you who create environments for joy, safety and learning.
I can only imagine the anxiety, exhaustion and hopelessness this year has brought. I hope you’re making time everyday to look after yourself with care, love, and compassion. Self care is not an act of selfishness. It is an act of responsibility. Be it a shoulder to cry on, a group of adults with whom to process and make sense of the emotional whirlwind, protect time to do what you love most. I hope you take care of yourself as seriously and with as much commitment as you’ve done with our children. They do better when the adults they care about are doing well.
We need you to take care because titanic work lies ahead. We’re in the midst of a global crisis that has furthered uncertainties about our social, political, economic and environmental worlds. The human project is at stake. We need to come back to the fundamental question of why we educate. In this uncertain, volatile world, we have to prepare our children to know themselves, think and develop a passion for learning, care for others, and better the world. These are things that compulsory schooling has not been very good at cultivating, dedicated instead to fulfilling its three main historical functions of custody, control, and sorting of our children and youth.
We need you to be well because, without you, it will be impossible to create radically reimagined schools and an education system that centers its energy and resources on the learning and wellbeing of all students, and the educators that guide them. Accomplishing this is central to any prospect of restoring humanity. I am aware that this is a big ask, especially since you’ve already been doing the impossible for so long. But I am hoping that, once again, we will be able to count on you in this journey of reinventing our schools and school systems so that they become powerful vehicles for liberating learning. With this, I don’t intend to put yet another thing on your shoulders. Liberating learning is not about taking on more work, but about doing the work differently – in the ways that you know are best for our children and youth to learn and thrive. I know that, titanic as it seems, the project of liberating learning can reignite the purpose that led you and your colleagues to dedicate your life to education. It will be hard work, maybe harder than ever. But when connected to purpose and community, hard work is easier to bear. You get to bed at the end of the day exhausted, but not burnt out. And there’s a big, fundamental difference there.
As a scholar and father I have dedicated my life to help create education systems that, at the very least, don’t get in the way of doing what you do best, or even better, make things a bit easier for you. I look up to you. Know that you can count on my deep respect, admiration, gratitude, and solidarity.