Open Letter to Education Professionals around the world
On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities sent an alert to the World Health Organization. On 03/23/2020, 124 countries were already closing their educational institutions. Approximately 1.2 billion students would be outside physical schools, studying, if possible, remotely. With the arrival of vaccines in 2021, the world begins to react, even with due care, and little by little, hoping that things will return to normality — or as normal as we can get at the moment.
The truth is that the COVID-19 pandemic changed Education forever. Countless studies began to be released bringing facts and figures about Education. Unfortunately, the worst of them is that the education system may have been so severely affected that, in some countries, it has delayed learning by up to 4 years. On the other hand, research has shown that, with the emergence of e-learning, teaching carried out remotely and on digital platforms, online learning has increased the retention of information, taking less time to apply, which means that these changes may have reached to stay.
We have limited information on the likely path of the pandemic. Educators, communities, families, and students had to make decisions in a context of uncertainty. We had documented information from previous pandemics, which we could use that knowledge as a model to inform ourselves. However, there are enough differences in this pandemic compared to the 1918 flu to show that the world is definitely not the same anymore. The laws have changed.
Generations have changed. Students’ expectations have changed. What served in one century could no longer be used in the next.
On August 6th, according to Law 13.054/14, Brazil celebrates the National Day of Education Professionals. So, I take this opportunity to give thanks, show my admiration, and give my words of motivation in the form of an open letter to all these professionals:
I know these are uncertain times. As people responsible for education, I also know that you may be carrying a great burden, of fears, sadness, and doubts, and cannot see positivity in the midst of so many uncertainties.
As an Educator, I would like to, first of all, remember that we chose Education as our Life Mission, and teaching as our Soul Purpose. Our knowledge, available resources, and love for our work are the three pillars for making decisions that ensure we are up to our tasks.
We did not expect the situation that was handed to us, but we transformed these circumstances into opportunities, thus co-creating a new reality. We face what was given to us and establish a new way of doing our work, through our talent, wisdom, and collective effort. Most importantly, COVID-19 has changed the way we see ourselves and others. Many of us feel that the world has changed and that our way of life, including the way we raise our children, has changed even more.
There are many things we cannot control. We need to have faith and hope that we are going to get through it all because we are not alone. We now have the opportunity to remake Education, modernize it, and create an educational system that prepares our students for the future. We agree that, even before the pandemic, it was time to make changes.
As an educator, I am deeply concerned with rethinking education and striving to reconcile ideology with reality in the classrooms and schools of my country and around the world. Collectively, we say children are our future. We say we want students to think critically, to be problem solvers, to ask questions, to help us make the world a better place. So I hope that we take advantage of this golden opportunity to rethink the nature and purpose of Education.
I envision an educational system in which educators invoke patterns of compassion, empathy, action, and reason while questioning the deep regularities that stifle achievement. Educators who promote a community of belonging, equality, sharing, abundance, and trust. I imagine competent educators who deserve and command autonomy and respect. May we become a nation that values education as a path to equity and achievement. And through small daily actions, we can insist that our voices and actions serve to empower this generation to create a better world. May we become educators who seek out students’ experiences, interests, and talents as a means of engagement.
I know you miss your students, your classroom, and the culture you cultivated within it. I know how much your students mean to you, how they become “your babies” year after year — and how much you love to see them with their little eyes shining from learning something new. Believe me, they are learning, a lot. Although sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. Much more than the subject you teach. They are watching you and learning socio-emotional skills that no curriculum could explain:
You taught your students the importance of Planning when you thought and considered the real needs of each one of them; when you anticipated potential problems and sought solutions; when you were creative in the preparation of each class and had in mind what, what and how to teach.
You taught your students in practice a buzzword, but you, the teacher, needed it on a daily basis: Resilience, the ability to deal with problems and adapt to change. It also taught them the difference between Adaptability and Flexibility.
You taught them what Leadership is, a person’s ability to lead a group of individuals, generating the desired results. And with a plus: you were able to lead your classroom, mediated by technology. Your Communication and Motivation were extremely important to keep them engaged.
Developing skills and using technological resources on a daily basis showed students the importance of Continuous Learning. Always being aware of new trends and technologies and continuing to acquire and expand knowledge.
From you, they learned about Compassion and Empathy. Through dialogue, listening, helping to resolve conflicts, cooperating, welcoming, and valuing, after all, as human beings, we are all going through the same challenging situation.
Teacher, you are making history! We are the first teachers of the century to face a challenge like the one we face now. A few years from now, 2020 will be remembered as the year we all learned to live apart from each other and still function as a society. Take a break and realize that what you are doing is extremely important. It’s important not only for the students you have in your classes today but also for our future. We are part of large-scale systemic change and we are making history.
Although the academic years didn’t start out the way everyone expected, we are constantly inspired to continue. Your dedication to driving meaningful results for students is inspiring. Keeping everyone engaged, safe, and connected. Thank you, educators, for everything you do to guide students, especially in difficult times. The global pandemic was a lesson in creativity, flexibility, and perseverance. Thank you for your dedication during these unprecedented times.
Teacher, I want you to know that you are seen and valued. That you are essential. Take care. Be safe. I know you are doing your best. Thanks for being there.
Kátia Brunetti — Educator, Teacher, Translator/Interpreter, Coach and Holistic Therapist