Are Teachers Essential Workers?

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Who is an essential worker? In 2019, most people would have answered something like, “healthcare workers and first responders.” In 2020, there were other categories of essential workers that were recognized as absolutely critical such as grocery store cashiers, delivery workers, and sanitation department workers. 

What about teachers? Are they essential workers? This April, the Bank of Israel announced that for each week that schools were closed, the economy suffered a 2.6 billion shekel loss (roughly $740 million) because of parents’ inability to work with young children at home. Countries and families around the world experienced the same phenomenon. This data may help classify teachers as essential workers for the economy, but let’s approach the question from a different angle: are teachers essential to our children’s education?

Perhaps one of the most salient things that parents with young children have learned over the last few months is that live teachers, whether they are in person or on a screen, are an essential ingredient to our children’s academic success. Whereas before we might have thought that technology could replace teachers, the research from the shutdown has shown that this is not the case. What are some of the reasons that most children (and adults) learn better in live classes? 

  • Live classes can be tailored to students’ interests and needs. Teaching live allows teachers to respond to their students’ abilities and concerns. Teachers can pause for questions, linger on a topic if it is the cause for lively debate, or integrate comments students made earlier in the lesson.
  • Live classes encourage critical thinking skills. When students engage in debate or discussion, they are forced to form opinions and defend those opinions. This fosters critical thinking skills both in and outside of the classroom.
  • Live classes promote organizational skills. When students must be prepared for a class at a certain time and with certain materials, they need to acquire executive function skills that help with time management, goal setting, and impulse control.
  • Live classes spark human connection and therefore more motivation. Social interaction is integral for life — but especially for learning. The human interaction that is inherent in live classes creates connections both between the teacher and the student and the students amongst themselves. The more connected the student is to the teacher and the course, the more likely the student will be motivated to learn.

There are multiple reasons why recorded classes (with teachers nonetheless) are sometimes necessary or even preferable. Regardless, amidst this uncertainty that has closed schools around the world, it has become even more apparent how truly essential teachers are. When it comes to Jewish education, authentic and passionate humans are essential on a whole new level. It’s virtually (pun-intended) impossible to build identity over a screen. For that very reason, Jewish educators are more essential than ever.

If you are looking for a meaningful and essential career in Jewish education, reach out to us through our website: www.talenteducators.org.

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