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On the front lines

By Mike Ruffin I’m sure you join me in appreciating those who are on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. When we think about the front line warriors fighting the pandemic, medical professionals probably come to mind first. We are grateful for the doctors, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and lab technicians who deal directly with sick people. We appreciate the support staff who help with the process. We are grateful for Emergency Medical Technicians who treat and transport people in medical crisis. Whether they work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, walk-in clinics, or public health departments, medical professionals put their health and lives on the line to help us stay healthy or get well. They are doing valiant work to stem the tide of the pandemic. They are heroes. We can now add teachers to those who are on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. While this applies to all teachers, I especially have our public school teachers in mind (and on my heart). Teachers in our area are in preplanning. In addition to their usual work of preparing their lesson plans and classrooms, they are also preparing to create and maintain an environment in which students and teachers will be as safe as possible from the spread of COVID-19. When students report for school soon (assuming plans don’t change), teachers will add pandemic curtailment to their already vital tasks of education and socialization. It’s more than they signed up for, but they will face it head-on. Their courage is but one element of their dedication. We need to appreciate, encourage, and support our teachers as well other school personnel, including paraprofessionals, administrators, school nurses, librarians, lunchroom workers, custodians, and bus drivers (and anyone else I didn’t mention). What can we do for our teachers as they begin this more challenging than usual school year? First, we can pray for them. We can ask God to help and protect them. Second, we can support adequate funding for our schools. We can advocate for prioritizing public education in the budgets adopted by our national, state, and local representatives. We can resist efforts to redirect funding from public to private schools. We can insist on the importance of public education in moving us toward more equality and toward greater security and insist that it be funded at levels commensurate with its contributions to our society. Third, we parents, grandparents, and other family members can guide the students in our families to follow the guidelines laid down by their schools that their teachers must enforce. We can respect science. We can learn how to differentiate between information and misinformation and teach our children how to do the same. If we espouse conspiracy theories, dismiss the pandemic as a hoax, downplay the seriousness of the situation, and refuse to follow reasonable guidelines of social distancing, mask wearing, and handwashing, our children will pick up on it and will likely follow our lead, which will make the teachers’ jobs that much harder. It will also increase the chances of our children getting sick. Our teachers and all others who contribute to our children’s education are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. They are heroes. Let’s give them our full support.

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