You Get Straight A’s!
June 10, 2021
June 10, 2021
Fifteen months ago, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam closed Virginia public school buildings because a virus that would ultimately infect more than 33 million Americans and kill nearly 600,000 had invaded the commonwealth.
Overnight, many of the rituals we associate with our schools disappeared: Lively cafeterias and Friday night football games. Packed school buses. Reading circles with kids’ knees touching one another.
Everything else was transformed. Instruction went virtual, school buses were used to deliver meals or set up temporary WiFi stations—and everyone just wanted to get back to normal, whatever that could mean.
One thing stood out: You. You and your colleagues performed as frontline workers, answering the call, whether in person or via remote instruction. While keeping students and staff safe, you delivered instruction creatively and tirelessly.
And it’s important that you know that the public recognizes how professionally—and heroically—you have acted when students needed you.
“The past year has been challenging for everyone, but most of us have not had to adapt to a completely new way of doing our jobs like teachers have,” said a Northern Virginia parent participating in VEA-sponsored focus groups this spring. “Maintaining a calm and patient demeanor while also sticking to a lesson plan is tough, and they deserve grace.”
VEA launched focus groups and surveys of the public in spring to capture public mood as the pandemic passed its one-year mark. That research showed that citizens recognize the amazing work teachers and support professionals accomplished against unprecedented challenges. (In other words, don’t believe any haters you may have seen on social media—they’re speaking to themselves.)
What follows are key findings from VEA’s research studies, as well as a timeline of the key ways VEA has supported you during this critical period. A refreshing, positive feeling is starting to take hold for the first time in more than a year. Masks are coming off, people have been getting vaccinated in large numbers, and some schools have been able to hold in-person graduations and other events. This summer is a time to recharge your batteries, because you deserve it!
Your Union: A Solid Support System
In a situation none of us was really prepared for, your Union, just as our members have in their individual situations around Virginia, has risen to the occasion and had your back. Here are just some of VEA’s highlights in the last 15 months:
In a time of intense pressure and stress, the parents of your students have had your back and appreciated your hard work and commitment to their children.
“Remember that teachers are people, too, with their own circumstances,” said one parent. “We’re all doing the best we can in this pandemic. Offer solutions and support, not criticism.”
In April and May, VEA commissioned a poll of the public, which included a sample of parents of public school students; here are some of the findings from that research:
Educators have been specific and adamant about what constitutes safe instruction and the best format for delivering it throughout the pandemic and when schools should reopen, and the public has largely been in agreement.
“With social distancing, they couldn’t fully reopen,” said one parent in a VEA survey this spring. “I wouldn’t want them to right now. Numbers need to be where they need to be. I’m not in any hurry until things are normal again.”
In the April and May surveys, the general public had this to say about schooling during the pandemic:
Make no mistake: COVID remains with us. And while it’s been an exhausting and stressful 15 months (and counting), we’re advancing on a “new normal” with growing speed.
In a survey of VEA members, 76 percent said they were either “very” or “somewhat” confident that it will be safe for their school to open full-time and in-person this fall. In addition, 84 percent said they’re fully vaccinated now; of those who weren’t yet fully vaccinated, 85 percent had scheduled their second shots.
Some of the most encouraging information to come out of our research and surveys, however, is that adults both inside and outside of our public school systems identify the needs of children as their top priorities in making decisions about opening schools, methods of teaching, and other education issues. While there have been some pushing for school reopening timelines that may have caused unnecessary health risks because of economic or child care concerns, they have been in the minority and have not prevailed.
Perhaps, then, if there’s a “winner” anywhere in this pandemic, it’s been common sense—and, as a result, our young people.