Teachers & educators need our thanks. Right now, more than ever

If we’re keeping school & childcare open, teachers & educators need our thanks

Teachers and educators seem to be the missing voices in the debate about whether schools and our early education and care (childcare) services remain open or closed.

But something else is missing. Thanks from anyone for this – largely female – workforce.

The Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer announced today that Australian schools will remain open based on health advice.

“We believe very strongly that it’s in the best interest of our children and the nation at this time to keep schools open,” The Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said. “So we need to make sure that our schools are made as safe as possible. We need to make sure that no sick child goes to school. We need to make sure that no sick teacher goes to school.”

The Prime Minister said that there were many reasons for this.

“The first one is that the virus operates very differently amongst younger people. It has a different manifestation amongst younger people and that presents a very different health challenge to the broader population.” He added: “We all love our kids and there is nothing we wouldn’t do for them. I am telling you that, as a father, I’m happy for my kids to go to school.”

But nowhere, did either of them offer thanks to the teachers or educators who will be working to keep our schools and our education and care services open.

Nowhere did they acknowledge that the virus might work differently in young people and that educators, teachers and staff in schools are not young people.

Our educators and teachers are used to having low wages and generally having little status and standing in the community. But, wouldn’t it be nice if right now we thanked them?

These people also have family members who might be more susceptible to the virus. They are as scared as the rest of us. They also need to hunt and gather for toilet paper. But, like health workers, they are being asked to go to places with the world’s most efficient germ transfer units (children) and do what they always do. Care for, and educate, our children.

Think about what might be happening in those classrooms and education and care services right now.

Nappies being changed, noses being wiped, children being fed, children being hugged and comforted, children being taught about hand-washing and coughing into elbows.

Children being looked after when they are probably just as scared as all of us about what the next few months will hold – maybe even more scared than adults because they may be too young to have total cognition and understanding. Think about the impossibility of social distancing with babies and toddlers. It’s the same in primary schools.

In times like these a little bit of recognition for a job that is well done, goes a long way. Our educators and teachers, just like our health care workers, need to know we have their backs.

We can only presume our governments are making good decisions about whether or not to close schools and early education centres. We hope they make good decisions about supporting the many casual workers these systems rely upon. We can only support those decisions while noticing that the decisions being made for public schools differ from those many richer private schools are making for their communities.

But can we have some leadership here? Can the Prime Minister please thank our teachers for continuing to do their jobs in these, the hardest of times? Can he take a minute to notice the (mostly women) who are caring for our children day in and day out? To notice the workforce responsible for the government’s policy of keeping our schools open?

Norway’s Prime Minister took 30 minutes out of her day to answer Norwegian children’s questions about the virus.

Surely Scott Morrison could take one minute to thank those who are doing this work, and so much more, daily?

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