“There are people in this country who work hard every day
Not for fame or fortune do they strive
But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay
And it’s time a few of them were recognized.”
-Alabama (Forty Hour Week)
Growing up in the rural south, I spent many Saturdays in my dad’s white Chevy pickup truck traveling the roads between town and my grandfather’s farm on Fines Creek. Once you got out of town, the radio didn’t work well, and dad only had one cassette tape, so we listened to the same Alabama album every Saturday. The opening lines from Forty Hour Week have stuck with me through the years. It helped form a deep sense of appreciation for those who work to make others’ lives a little better.
For more that one hundred years, we have been celebrating Labor Day. Its roots trace back to the New York City labor unions of the early 1880s. Peter J. McGuire, the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested a day for those who “have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” It may be a bit easier to notice and appreciate those working around us in times of struggle and strife. In 2020, we have a newfound perspective and appreciation for those essential workers who have played a small part in getting us through the last eight months.
There are so many essential workers that need to be thanked. Educators across this country would certainly be included in this list, especially the educators I work with each day. We are just beginning a new school year, and I could not ask for a better group of teachers and support staff to be with through this adventure. From the cafeteria staff to the custodians, and from the office staff to our teacher assistants, everyone has done more than their part to help get the school year started smoothly. Our teachers began meeting with students in July to assess them and start making decisions about how to best prepare them for the year ahead. Not once have I heard a complaint about working face to face with students. I am entirely aware that these teachers don’t come to school without concerns. They have young children themselves, and many have parents and others in their immediate families that are immunocompromised and at greater risk if exposed to the virus. Still, in the face of danger, they have been willing to put their safety and self-interest aside and focus on asking the essential question, “what is the best thing I can do for our students today?” For that, I could not be prouder or more humbled to come to work each day and be greeted by such an amazing group of people.
Not only have they been willing to set aside very real safety concerns to try and do what is best for our students, but they have also been ready to address challenges never faced before in the modern era of education. They have entirely redesigned instructional delivery stretching far outside the classroom, where they were trained to teach. They have also done this while having limited access to network resources due to the ransomware attack last week. I am so proud of their strength and determination, as well as their ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
As we take this weekend to rest and relax, we should take a moment to consider those whose labor has made our lives a little easier, a little safer, or a little more possible. As I do that this weekend, the faculty and staff at Hazelwood Elementary will be at the top of the list. Know that you are an amazing group of individuals, and the work you do is critical to our students’ success and the success of our community. It is some of the most important work and has such a significant impact on the future of so many of those around us. For that, I say both “Thank You!” and “Rest Well!” Enjoy the holiday weekend. You certainly deserve it.