Enabling Communities, K-12 Education, Organizational Learning
Teachers are weary warriors
I’ve been meeting with inspiring Detroiters and youth-service warriors nonstop since I joined the Foundation. Sometimes one-on-one. Sometimes in small groups. And a few times each month, in a curated dialogue with a specific group of visionaries and changemakers I want to sit among, learn from, and build with.
These conversations seem to happen right on time for all of us. For me, they are transformative.
This week, I sat with a group of 10 teachers. Men and women teaching a range of grade levels across Detroit’s public district and charter schools. It was growing dark outside as our video call began, yet many were still in the classroom. Others revealed scenes of their homelife where children and spouses tugged for attention—or at least for an update on when dinner would be had.
Why did they take the time to be on this call?
To be heard. To talk about what they love, who they love, and what they need—not for themselves, but for their kids, their students.
They came to heal. And to hope… maybe action can come out of conversation.
What these teachers expressed (and what the principals and young people in group listening sessions before them shared) is forming my priorities. The things I will act on, that The Skillman Foundation will act on, and that we will call others to act on.
What we heard from teachers
These make great social media posts to express solidarity with educators. Consider using one or two of the following hashtags for visibility: #TeacherLife or #TeacherAppreciation, #MichEd, #proudMIeducator. Or retweet one of our posts. Sharable images available on the Foundation’s Instagram & Facebook pages.
Amidst the challenges there is OPTIMISM.
I can. You can. We can. Together.
Young people are doing a lot of hard things, from tackling social justice issues to surviving.
We can’t expect kids to leave trauma at the classroom door. And we can’t expect teachers to heal them without training and support.
Decisions about teaching should be made by teachers.
Teaching should not be regarded as an entry-level position. It is a challenging and noble profession. It demands higher respect and compensation.
Schooling will be fully virtual in the near future if we don’t stave off the loss of teachers.
Teachers should be exempt from paying state taxes.
As soon as you walk into a school building, without seeing a single child, you’ll know the race of the majority population just by seeing how resourced or under resourced the school is. The correlation between school financing and race must be changed.
Teachers are carrying a torch for equity and justice. Who is keeping that torch lit for them?
Respect students’ humanity. Everyone in the classroom holds expertise and power. No one should have to ask if they’re allowed to use the bathroom. Wearing a hoodie shouldn’t lead to disciplinary action.
Gen Z and Alpha will be the ones to do it. They’re growing up more politically and socially conscious, with greater access to information, and—like all youth before them—they possess a spark that can change the world.
Healing over hustling
At the end of the call, we asked how we could honor the teachers for their time. Not a soul suggested money (although they are clearly overworked and underpaid). They requested things for their students: dollars to support mental health, to celebrate class achievements, to start a school debate team.
We experience this response from educators whenever we ask how they can be thanked. First, there is silence. Then, requests to help others.
This is noble. It is love. But our teachers and principals—and our kids—need to know that it is not only okay to practice self-care, but that it is encouraged and necessary. We must create a culture that promotes self-care and that gives teachers as much love and they give to our children.
This listening session with Detroit teachers is part of a year-long listening tour by The Skillman Foundation’s new President & CEO, Angelique Power. Learn more about the listening tour here.
We’d love to hear from you! Please share your insights about Detroit, child well-being, education, and/or the work of The Skillman Foundation here.