As we pass the one-year mark of the pandemic, we can only hope that the vaccine rollout and implementation of CDC guidelines for schools will bring a safe return to in-person learning. This is a somber milestone, but it’s also a time to reflect on what we have all been through—and perhaps to dare to look to the future.
When our school buildings shut down abruptly in March 2020, many educators risked their lives to feed hungry families, deliver needed technology and learning packets to students, and sanitize schools. And some delivered in-person learning throughout the pandemic. At the same time, their jobs have been in jeopardy; educators are celebrated as heroes one day and threatened with pink slips the next.
Layering trauma upon trauma, we have also faced a reckoning with systemic racism in our nation and our schools.
In this precarious moment, we use this issue of NEA Today to look forward. We devote our cover story, “What’s Next? How the Pandemic Will Change the Future of Schools,” (Page 36), to the ways this experience has altered the landscape of education, in both positive and negative ways, and how it will impact schools in the years ahead.
In “Recruiting Educators of Color” (Page 30) we focus on the urgent need to attract more educators of color into the profession and how unions are working to accomplish this goal. And in “Why We Need More Black Men in the Classroom,” (Page 32), Sundjata Sekou, a member of the New Jersey Education Association, shares how he was often the only Black child in the classroom and how this isolation inspired him to become a teacher.
We also celebrate educators’ creativity in “You Can’t Resist the #TeachersofTikTok” (Page 44), featuring educators who have taken to the social media app to engage and connect with students remotely during the pandemic.
One year later, we all need to be thankful for just making it through. We want you to know that NEA has been working day and night to ensure that educators are prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations and have adequate safety equipment and cleaning supplies. And we have advocated for two federal coronavirus relief bills that provide emergency funds for public schools and protect educators’ jobs, among our many efforts. NEA is with you, now and into the future.