January 24, 2022

Florina Rodov: We Must Support Our Teachers

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Writing for Newsweek, former teacher Florina Rodov calls out the attacks on teachers and asks for support instead.

As a Soviet refugee, I grew up in New York City public schools. When my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Lerner, told me I was smart, she pried me away from my grandma’s apron strings which I clutched each morning, begging not to go to school because I didn’t want to get teased for my bad English. In the fourth grade, when mono confined me to bed for a month, Mrs. McNamee taught me over the phone every night. In my eleventh grade precalculus class, the dynamic Ms. Slavin made me enjoy math for the very first time, proving that the impossible was possible.

This became my mantra when I was an English teacher at a Washington Heights high school, where my colleagues and I propelled our Dominican students, most of whom were from low-income homes, to college. One of them, Shaun Abreu, recently won a seat on the New York City Council, becoming the first Latino to represent District 7.

Because of how much teachers do for students and communities, they’re expected to cure all societal ills. And when schools shut down, teachers get blamed, endlessly alternating between hero and villain. It’s easier to scapegoat teachers than it is to hold politicians accountable for investing in schools and providing pandemic support.

Given school buildings’ longstanding decrepitude and overcrowding, it makes sense that teachers across the country have requested upgraded ventilation, adequate testing and a temporary remote option during an Omicron wave that has hospitalized an alarming number of kids. When districts failed to respond, teachers, students and staff got sick, and attendance fell while anxiety skyrocketed. As Brooklyn-based teacher Liat Olenick wrote in The Nation, “Schools are not functional right now, but instead of support, all teachers have gotten from the media and politicians is hate.”

Read the full essay here.

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