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By Rosalinda Alcala

A supportive community has risen out of the ashes of fear and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Many educators have seen an outpouring of parents’ appreciation. Parents have left notes on social media and made grateful calls. The increase in parent communication will no doubt strengthen the bonds between school and family.

On March 13, most schools in California closed their doors for an uncertain amount of time. In an instant, learning changed from a social environment to distance learning. Even on an elementary campus, children understood COVID-19 could lead to severe illness or death. Many children understood school closure was to keep everyone safe. I watched my teary-eyed students embrace one another good-bye.

“When we finally emerge from our homes and return together once more, the bonds between parents and teachers may be forever changed — as may all relationships.”

As the nation began to adjust to the stay-home order, new problems emerged. An equilibrium was needed between work, family and learning. Teaching and learning were disrupted. As students learned in different formats and parents were pulled in different directions, educators were surprised by what followed: Instead of complaints and negativity, there was an outpouring of gratitude.

One Facebook post on the Fryberger Elementary School page read: “Thank you (principal) and your awesome teachers for doing such a phenomenal job in assisting us and our kids with distance learning. There is so much to take away from this experience, however, gratitude is definitely at the top of my list — because today working with all three of my kids hasn’t been easy. Yet your teachers work with 30-plus kids at one time, managing all kinds of personalities, moods and problem solving. That’s talent and dedication for sure! Thank you so much for your patience as we get through this.”

UTLA member Linda Rodriguez Bourgeois, who teaches at Harry Bridges Span Elementary School in Wilmington, found many notes from parents on one of her teacher platforms, among them: “How do you do it? I have no idea how you get him to focus. You must have magic.”

Another: “What you do is a gift. … Where do you find the patience for the kids? I just have one and I’m going crazy.” Yet another: “Thank you for all you do for my boy — he misses you so much.”

People looked at relationships and felt the gap that has grown during this pandemic. Children are no different. They have strong bonds with their friends and teachers. Sita Jones Perry, a special education teacher at Newport Coast Elementary, says parents have told her, “The children like to see you. They get off Zoom and are happy.”

In addition to strong relationship bonds, work specialization has been tested. Crossover of previously specialized skills have spilled into our everyday life. Many parents have learned that teaching their children is a difficult task.

Educators have also understood the value of specialization. A Fullerton Community College instructor (and Community College Association member) concedes that elementary teaching is its own craft. She says, “When it comes to education, the elementary teacher knows the art of discipline, rewards and expectations. She knows when to push and when to pull. I tend to push because I don’t know the art of being realistic.”

The instructor, who did not want to be named, praises her daughter’s elementary teacher: “She has learned and refined the art and science of what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom — I want her teacher back.” She adds, “Teachers need to be paid the same as doctors.”

When we finally emerge from our homes and return together once more, the bonds between parents and teachers may be forever changed — as may all relationships. Perhaps we will understand one another a bit more. Perhaps we will linger and speak to our neighbors, merchants and teachers. Perhaps the isolation of this pandemic will serve to instill understanding and gratitude.

Rosalinda Alcala is a member of Westminster Teachers Association.