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VOICES: Teaching in the Era of COVID-19

Karen Christian is a fifth grade teacher at Potter Elementary and President of United Teachers of Flint. 

Never has there been a more opportune moment to appreciate and recognize teachers. This Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4-8, feels notably different as teachers in Flint and across the country find ways to continue student learning amid COVID-19.

In recent weeks, teachers, staff and administrators have gone above and beyond to find a path forward that secures access to a meaningful education for all students. It hasn’t been easy. As a teacher for nearly 30 years, I have never before seen the overnight change in learning that was forced by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

The move to close schools was the right one for the safety of students, teachers and staff, but it has forced us to accommodate a new manner of learning overnight. We’re innovating as we go, and we get better every day.

Amidst these strange times, teachers play a vital role in keeping things light and upbeat for our students. In Flint, many of our children and families are grieving the loss of loved ones to COVID-19, and teachers are, too. We have strived to create a sense of normalcy when the environment is anything but normal.

Teachers are creating new approaches to improve learning every day, and sharing lessons learned along the way. Whether delivering print learning packets to students’ homes, hosting Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts or weekly phone calls, teachers are doing whatever it takes to make sure the students of Flint are cared for. 

We’re helping families connect to wraparound services, too. Through weekly check-ins, we ensure students are gaining access to technology. While some students had a device and internet in their home from the onset, we made print learning packets available from the onset to those who did not. We have let families know where they can go for food distribution throughout the district, and connected families to social supports, as needed, too. We haven’t done it alone—countless staff members in every building have ensured students have the resources they need.

We appreciate our parents and families, who are playing an active role in the education of their children. We know more is being asked of parents than ever before. We are grateful for the patience and understanding parents have shown as we all learn the ropes in this new environment. For those parents who are struggling with this process, we are here for you and we are committed to continuing to work out the kinks together.

I am deeply grateful to all those who continue to serve as teachers in Flint. You are the heart of our schools and you change students’ lives each and every day. When change is the only thing that’s constant, teachers’ commitment to their students prevails.

Even amid COVID-19, we will continue to see student growth and development and we will continue to see the impact of great teachers. I urge the community to join me in recognizing Flint teachers, whose undying commitment to students marches on.