By Hermann Pereira
Here’s the recipe: Take 1 First Year Teacher. Add 1 COVID year and add 1 cup of Delta COVID spike. Combine with 22 uncertain kids ages 6-18. Sift and resift through innumerable Zoom links. Upload new communication and grading tools that engage parents, district bosses, and Texas state regulators. Just for fun – make masks uncertain and even legally challenging.
Building professional resiliency and success is important in every profession. But Waco teachers? They need some extra support, friendship, and strength right now in a special way! And when they need it the most, help is on the way. Hazel Rowe, legendary teacher administrator and community leader has gathered together a posse of retired teachers as the NEW TEACHER THRIVING NETWORK to ride along and support several first year teachers serving in the Waco area.
At their first greet-and-meet gathering around pizza each teacher received an empty gift bag. “You are going to need stress relief this year,” the mentors intoned, “and we are here to help fill this bag with things that can be stress relievers in the next few weeks.”
Then systematically the mentors walked by each new teacher and put something related to one of the five senses into the gift bag: Flavor – chocolate, Smell – lotions, Touch – stress toys, Hearing – websites for music, Sight – pictures and a mirror.
Laughter, friendship, comradery across districts and schools … and the very reassuring words of an experienced mentor who will be one text, one phone call, one word away. This special posse is an add on to the programs that are already initiated by the many school districts around Waco; each one is working to sustain and support teachers at every grade level. But districts cannot do it alone.
More than a bumper sticker, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”
Hermann Pereira is chief program officer and senior education specialist for Prosper Waco.