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Our educators are essential workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize many things that should have been obvious years ago, but we tend to ignore inconvenient truth as long as possible. The fact is that teachers and most school personnel are essential workers because schools are designated places where all other workers take their children for day care .

As a teacher, I resented the idea that the public thought we were “just babysitting,” but now I know that keeping kids safe was the most important work we had to do. I thought I was there to inspire and instruct intelligent young people, but I can see now that the most important thing I had to do was to keep kids out of harm’s way and prevent them from hurting others. If they learned skills that would help them earn a living and use their leisure time wisely as adults, so much the better.

Of course, the role of teachers changes as students get older, but it is clear that parents need to earn a living and must take their children to someone else starting early in life. However, most Americans do not have a good idea of what can be learned in kindergarten. European scholars began researching these questions in the 1800s because they had large numbers of working women in cities. Montessori teaching methods were developed for the poor bambini of Rome, and Benet IQ testing was the way children were evaluated for entrance into programs in Paris before 1900.

Four-year-old kindergarten is perhaps the most innovative thing that has happened in West Virginia over the last 50 years, but those very young children are the ones who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. The majority of them do not have access to online learning, and they would not be able to do much with it if they could get access. They really need the kindness of a caring teacher, and they often do not have that person at home.

On a personal note, I have to say that my 4-year-old granddaughter is very lucky to have her Grandpa Joe to be her teacher, computer guide and friend during the pandemic. He has ventured into an online bakery to help her decorate cakes and play other computer games to sharpen her computer skills. They have walked many miles together and picked up leaves, pine cones and many other treasures all along the way. Nevertheless, we will all be glad when she can be back in school with her age peers, and online learning will be only a part of the curriculum.

When she gets to elementary and secondary school, like her older siblings and cousins, I hope all Randolph County students will be able to take advantage of online learning opportunities, and also they will have hands-on science labs, physical activities in gym, and handwritten assignments for all classes.

The essential work of teachers helps develop effective and thoughtful future citizens.

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