Teachers were the frontline workers of education during the pandemic. Treat them like it.

Recently, teachers unions have said they are not seeking pandemic bonus payments. But why would they not deserve something to recognise their work during the pandemic?

As if teachers’ jobs were not hard enough already pre-pandemic, it got even harder when they had to deal with students in their own homes.

No face-to-face contact, failing internet connections, having to tell people they’re on mute – it may have been the lockdown life of pretty much everyone, but teachers also had to deal with added pressures, especially in secondary schools.

I have family in Australia, and my little cousin, who started primary school (into a grade called kindy, or kindergarten of course… isn’t that cute?) during the pandemic has not really had the experience that would be expected. Since Sydney locked down months ago, he has had all his classes online, and the teacher has been at the fore, trying to make sure the kids stay on track, don’t get distracted, since they always do, and responding to the hilarious comments that five-year-old children make.

Here’s a good example: the teacher told a child their screen was frozen, and my cousin responded with “let it go”, in reference to the film. When I heard about this, I nearly died with laughter, but could anyone imagine the inner facepalm that the teacher felt on hearing that? Because I certainly could not.

Primary school teachers have had to deal with that for months, especially while we were locked down here in Ireland.

And if anything, secondary school teachers have had it worse over the past two years.

Back in 2020, when Covid arrived, and schools shut, teachers were expected to continue teaching when literally no one knew what was going on. I was one of those students who needed that education, of course, in the lead-up to the Leaving Cert. If teachers did not know what was going on, who did?

I still remember my maths teacher having to create a private Instagram account, get us all to follow it, and then when we would have maths class, she started a live video, showing us how to do something, and then we had to comment saying if we understood. That is if the signal didn’t drop.

Nothing like this had ever been experienced before. Teachers were forced to adapt and change their ways of teaching to ensure an education could be given. After all, we are the future. We need an education.

But you might be questioning the title of this opinion piece. You might be wondering how on earth you can relate teachers to frontline workers.

My thinking here is that while frontline workers are saving lives and putting their lives on the line, teachers are trying to ensure that the future will be bright, ensuring that people will be educated and actually have a good chance in life. If teaching had just stopped when schools shut, where would we be now? All school years would be far behind and in essence, the entire education system would be a complete mess. That’s why Calculated Grades and Accredited Grades came into being, to ensure things kept moving.

What if primary school teachers stopped teaching when schools shut? Young people’s essential learning at the start of life would be taken away from them, and it would be obvious that their intellectual ability would decline. We simply could not let that happen.

That’s why while we need to be thankful to frontline workers for saving lives, we need to be thankful for teachers too especially, because children need an education, and no matter what, teachers ensured it would be delivered one way or another. That’s why they deserve a pandemic bonus – to recognise the work they have put in during the pandemic.