Christine Bernstein: School Visits

Vice President
Los Alamos School Board

I feel extremely grateful. I had the opportunity to visit our Middle School and the High School  this week. The last time I was at either of these schools was over a year ago. In fact, I was at  the middle school on March 13th and the following week schools closed. This week I visited the  two schools and it felt so different than last year. I had some absolutely great and inspiring  conversations with several teachers. I saw interactions that were positive and filled with joy. I  saw kids being engaged and relaxed in their classrooms. It made me realize how much this  past year of struggle has impacted education in positive ways.  

I discovered that teachers got creative. Some teachers developed new tools to help their  students during remote learning. They kept these tools in place for in-person and have  discovered how valuable these are. Without the remote experience, they may never have come  around to this new idea. They were pushed by circumstance to get outside the box and get  creative. Teachers were given the opportunity to take a closer look at the standards and pare  things down to essentials. In doing so, they were able to go deep into topics and dive into a  deeper level of comprehension.  

Teachers are not seeing learning loss. They are seeing learning in different ways. They see  that kids learned and not just content. They learned about themselves. They learned new  skills. They learned to navigate through their day despite roadblocks and adversity. 

The teachers I spoke with expressed how exhausting this year has been and how hard it has  been to go back and forth between remote decisions vs. in-person. And even those that had  been fearful or resistant to not returning were grateful to be in the classroom with their students.  Even if for just a couple of months teachers realized how important this part of connection is for  everyone.  

Students seemed comfortable, relaxed, and engaged. I observed one teacher teach and it was  so much fun to watch! The kids asking questions, having fun, and the obvious relationship she  had with them, even in this short time together, was so huge to see in action. 

I spoke to teachers at length about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I was reminded of  how important it is for this profession to be respected as a profession. Our teachers have  worked incredibly hard this year, they have dealt with talking to icons for hours every day. They  have had to teach their classes with their own children sitting next to them. They have had to endure the wrath of people who questioned their professionalism. They had to reinvent,  recreate, and learn new tools with little time. And they stuck through it and kept going. And here  they were, in the classroom, doing a great job, showing up, being present for their kids. 

Teaching in a normal year is exhausting. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting. And at the  same time invigorating. I felt a part of me long to be in the classroom again. I saw and sensed  the exhaustion of our teachers. And at the same time, I saw the ceaseless energy they bring to  the classroom and for their students. I saw dedication and community. 

I went to the schools to say thank you. I did not come to evaluate or judge. That is not my  place nor my desire. I came to the schools to see our schools. I am asked to make decisions  that will impact what happens in the classroom, maybe not directly, but it will trickle in. It is  extremely helpful to see the reality, to hear the reality, and to hear the voices that I am here to  represent. I was not able to see and talk to every teacher. But thank you. Thank you for being  strong and resilient. Thank you for showing up and not giving up. If you ever want me to visit,  please let me know. I am here to hear.  

This has been a hard first year as a board member. And I have learned a lot too. Today, I  recognize that I learned that I am here to speak for my community. And I absolutely love being  able to that. I have always been an advocate for kids, and it is just as much fun and educational  to be an advocate for my community. Today, I am grateful for this crazy year we have had. And I am grateful for teachers. Truly. Thank you.