Do our schools properly support students?

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Students, teachers and schools have struggled for the past two years. Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on teachers trying to engage students in learning. Encouraging better citizenship was very difficult, if not impossible, while using social distancing and remote learning protocols. As this school year comes to an end, it’s time to look at how difficult a job this was for teaching staff and learn from the past two years to help guide future practices.

The failure of senior citizen care during the early days of Covid leads us to also inquire about the adequacy of support services given to schools. At the outset of the pandemic, the government made largely symbolic gestures to better support schools. But have teachers really received the support services they needed to enable student success during these difficult times? Besides promises of more ventilation and more teachers, promises that basically fizzled out, what other measures were offered during the past two years besides disinfectant and PPEs?

Teachers have always laboured under the public’s misguided idea that anyone can teach. “Teaching is easy.” The problem is that very few of us have the faintest notion of what teaching entails today; teaching is much more complicated than it was a generation ago. Expectations are higher and yet a lot of students bring anti-social attitudes. Students do not magically turn into exemplary role models the moment they enter school doors.

The mission of teachers is to bring knowledge and enable emotional growth in a supportive atmosphere to their students – our children, our future citizens. Indeed, the Western Quebec School Board has stated: “Everything we do revolve around student education and wellbeing.”

The real context of schools and students include learning difficulties; behaviour problems; gender identity issues; racist attitudes; drug and alcohol abuse; bullying; psychological trauma, despair and depression.

Teachers have consistently expressed the need for more support services to help them help their students who are dealing with these difficult issues. Ordinary class teaching routines must be buttressed by extra support services. More teaching aids, more psychologists and more counsellors are required not just “paper tigers” or empty promises.

Schools need a proper inquiry with teachers testifying about their needs. School boards need to examine their resources and programs and make these findings public. The government must respond with solutions and the funding necessary for a better functioning public education system.

The world we live in is one of rapid social change. If the future belongs to our children, it is urgent they have all the support they need in schools. And we should thank our hard-working teachers for trying to make that happen.