BY CHRISTINE BERNSTEIN
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.