We can all think of a teacher whose selflessness and patience not only kept the class in one piece, but impacted us in an irreversible way. Hannah Graether is one such selfless and patient teacher.
As a special education teacher at Orca K-8 School in South Seattle, Graether has experienced every usual challenge presented to an educator. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about entirely new obstacles and tested the strength of support that teachers feel from their communities.
“Before [the] pandemic, they asked teachers to do a lot for...not very much,” she said. “As the pandemic and vaccines and some knowledge came out, we got forced back in before we were ready.”
Kids themselves are struggling to adjust.
“The social demands, or the SEL [Social Emotional Learning] things that the kids are expressing right now...it’s definitely the most that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Simple things, such as personal boundaries, small group work and even eating habits have been thrown completely off balance, according to Graether.
Despite $145,154,890 of federal funding being allocated to the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) in order to maintain function during the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported in The Seattle Times, educators like Graether have yet to feel a real impact.
“I don’t think people know what goes on in school, like not every school has a nurse and not every school has mental health,” she said. “I don’t know where that money went; it is not in my classroom.”
Educators are often seen as vital to the protection of students’ mental health; however, teachers themselves continue to struggle without mental health support.
“Teachers are leaving left, right and center because they don’t feel heard,” she said. “They’re being asked to do too much for their mental health. We have too many kids, too small space, not enough resources, and it shouldn’t be up to the parents or the community to solve that. I think the district should do something.”
In a post-pandemic world, educators should have access to knowledge about trauma-informed teaching, according to Graether.
“A pandemic is trauma,” she said, “and we’re not going to get any of that training from the district.”
The pandemic brought about a heightened appreciation for the educators of our children, and this new awareness should be harnessed to better support our teachers. Our communities, in the present and the future, would not be the same without them.
Taija PerryCook is a student journalist attending the University of Washington, Seattle. Find her on Twitter, @taijalynne.
Read more of the Dec. 15-21, 2021 issue.