Schools need to be better and teachers need to be better, yes. And also, there just isn’t enough. Not enough teachers with enough time, not enough resources and supports for students, not nearly enough to do the job we could and should be doing.
This isn’t an excuse for not doing better than we are. It’s a wish that someday we build schools and systems as good as they can possibly be.
We can do better for free. We can connect with students better, we can put ourselves between them and anything out to harm them. We can empower and inspire students, we can arm them with the tools they need for the world they will build. We can make sure no student goes through school without seeing themselves in our classes and our curriculum, that every student feels accepted and affirmed for who they are, feels challenged and encouraged to reach for who they want to be.
We can do better by holding each other accountable for our work, for our focus, for mixing the science and the art of teaching, for doing our best to master both.
It would cost us nothing to be anti-racist, to accept and love and affirm our trans and queer youth. It’s free to stand against xenophobia, too, though we should be paying the people leading all that work way more.
We can do better. There’s no excuse not to. Without any more anything, with somehow even less next year, we have to do better.
But there is not enough, not nearly enough, to do everything we could do. I mean, my god, what we could do if there were more, if there were enough. I mean, my god, if we got to stop fighting over scraps, got to stop fighting to get by.
Imagine if there were enough teachers, and if those teachers had time in their day to work and reflect on their teaching, to work and talk with each other, to read research, to study and experiment, to develop and write their own research, to mentor new teachers and to specialize and to generalize, to lead one another.
Imagine if there were enough social workers so they could do more in a day than react to crises, if there were school counselors who got to counsel more than they got do scheduling and test coordinating.
Or if there were enough special ed teachers that each got to do the job they signed up for, do more than drown in paperwork and irresponsibly large caseloads; EL departments with the resources to wrap around each student they serve and make sure language barriers do not stand in the way of academic success.
If there were schools without mold, schools with clean water, schools with healthy food, with shop classes and instruments and theaters and art rooms. What if no teacher had to accept teaching a novel that was good enough? What if no students had to share lab materials or technology or cramped spaces?
What if schools had spaces for students, for families to come and be comfortable and work and relax, for health and mental services, for community?
There isn’t enough, not yet, not nearly. We can’t forget that we need to be better tomorrow without any more, but should never stop fighting for the job we could do.