LETTER: In Appreciation Of Our Teachers

Submitted by Dan Quigley, Greenwich

The past two years have been unlike any other in recent memory. This is especially true for our Greenwich Public Schools and independent school teachers.

Having  navigated through the darkest days of Covid, this year, our teachers were tasked with teaching their students in an atmosphere of ever shifting pandemic rules and a hyper-charged political environment.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week which presents the perfect opportunity to thank our teachers for their hard work.

As if these challenges were not enough, our teachers have also become unwitting targets in a misguided campaign by a vocal minority of our community regarding issues concerning curriculum and teaching methods. This is not specific to Greenwich and has unfortunately gained traction nationally as a political campaign issue. Much like how the so called “cancel culture” can curtail a persons ability to express an opinion without fear of retribution, this organized effort significantly hinders a teachers ability to teach creatively and will lead to a stifling of classroom debate rather than fostering it. This can have a detrimental effect on the learning process when it comes to teachers’ ability to discuss important historical topics, controversial current events, or simply conduct classroom debates with their students. It puts them in a perpetually untenable and unenviable position. 

As a student in the GPS, the teachers who had the greatest impact on me were the ones with whom I engaged in debate during and even after class. We often disagreed on the current events of the times, and usually were of different political persuasions. They did not push me to change my views, but rather challenged me to look at issues from a different perspective or presented me with an opinion I had not heard before which forced me to change my arguments. They were comfortable discussing any number of issues no matter how controversial, with an interested student who was eager to learn. As our schools have become more politicized, our teachers are getting caught in the crossfire, and educators, like the ones who challenged me to think outside the box will be less incentivized to do so out of fear that if they express an opinion someone does not agree with they can get in trouble. This is a loss for all of us, especially our kids.

Being an educator today is much more difficult than it used to be. Our teachers are burdened with far more complex issues than their predecessors were just a few decades ago. During the pandemic, we were reminded of how valuable our teachers are not only to our daily lives, but to those of our children. It is with that in mind that I thank our teachers for their continued hard work and dedication, and for their commitment to educating our children, especially in these troubled times.