Rachel Henderson - Needs of Teachers are important to the schools | WisCommunity

Rachel Henderson - Needs of Teachers are important to the schools

April 4, 2022 - 12:52pm
Rachel Henderson
Rachel Henderson

Recently, someone highlighted for me that I’ve spent a lot of my school board campaign talking about teachers, and talking about respect. I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down to elaborate on those topics.

When I talk about the needs of teachers, I'm thinking about their experiences during this school year: There have been high levels of absences due to COVID, many teachers have used up all of their sick time for themselves or their families, and a lack of substitute teachers in the district (and all over the state!) means that teachers are having to cover for one another, give up their prep time to teach, and be in school even when they or their families are sick. The result is an incredibly high level of stress for people in what we know is already a high-burnout profession. Additionally, our schools are short on support staff like paraprofessionals, who provide an immense amount of help to teachers with full classrooms. I believe the school board needs to address this in order to retain the best teachers -- which is how we have the best education for our students!

This all comes at a time when some groups in Menomonie are questioning the motivation and values of teachers. Teachers are under intense scrutiny for how they handle topics that have made their way into the "culture wars." I believe that teachers are professionals, and I have experienced first hand how well they handle sensitive subjects in the classroom.  I don't believe that the current wave of backlash is warranted, or fair, and I worry that it will lead to more teachers throwing up their hands and changing professions. As a parent, I WANT my kids to be in a classroom with someone who is willing to facilitate conversation around things like race, gender, history, etc.  I want them to have teachers throughout their school years who see those things as an integral part of learning to be citizens of the world.  I worry that if teachers are targeted for those lessons, we'll end up with schools that shy away from them.  I don't want that for our students.

When asked about respect, I had to think for a second, because I don't think about it as being a huge part of my own campaign, but I realized I do use it a lot.  Right now, I think a lot about respect for students whose life experience is different than my own, or the majority here in Menomonie.  Students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students meet very different challenges than my white sons do every day.  And in this time, in particular, a lot of them are being targeted, if not individually then as groups, by very vocal people in the community.  These kids are already more vulnerable to bullying and abuse, and already more at risk of slipping through the cracks at school.  I worry that when they hear themselves, or their peers, being lashed out at by adults they've never met, that will drive them away.  So when I talk about respect, I'm thinking about how important it is to have respect for all students and families, and especially those whose identities are different from my own. Every student deserves to feel safe and respected in school.

I always welcome conversation! Feel free to send questions or thoughts: 

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