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Live United: We are all connected to each other in the area community

Live United by Erin Haag


Last week, an educational nonprofit in Kentucky shared an image to cheer teachers on. A collage of Bob Villa, Mr. Rogers, Steve Irwin and Bill Nye. The caption says, “Some of the greatest teachers of all time … taught virtually.”

While I understand the intent, I cannot help but notice the fallacy of that graphic. These men were teachers, brought into our living rooms by the power of technology. However, there are a few major differences that makes this a comparing apples to oranges situation.

Erin Haag

First, all of these men had entire production teams behind them, providing invaluable resources that our teachers don’t have at the moment. Make no mistake — I’m fully aware that the IT Department is over-extended, working long and hard hours to make miracles happen with new limitations. But each teacher does not have a personal IT team assigned to them to ensure that technology is working smoothly so they can focus on what they need to do: teach. Each family does not have a personal IT team to help them log on and focus so they can do what they need to do: learn.

Second, for these gentleman, their audience is a passive one. Our area teachers are doing so much more than making videos to a passive audience. They’re creating classrooms on the computer, interacting with students. They’re monitoring behavior, reminding students and their families the importance of being present and ready to work, sitting at a table and not a couch and to be aware of your learning environment.

I wasn’t alone in that reaction. The commentary section showed that teachers quickly saw the differences, too, and some were frustrated by the message. Teachers spoke up, kindly doing what they do best — educating the public on the differences. There also was recognition of the challenges their profession faces. Rather than focus entirely on the negativity though, some chose to take the message with a “hey, it’s not the same, but I’m going to take this as a compliment anyway” type of attitude.

One commented, “So what I hear you saying is that teachers today are doing the same thing as these famous four, with less resources and more often. I think that means I’m a better teacher and so are you. Score!!!”

I appreciate that outlook, however, it’s essential that we as a society recognize that many of our human service professionals are working with less resources than they should. Time, support and money are all in short supply for many of our human service providers. Add in the challenges of working with a wide variety of community members, with different levels of accessibility, and our most critical leaders are wearing too many hats.

With the exception of Steve Irwin, I’d like to note that the other three media stars worked for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) home of Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Magic Schoolbus and more. I was curious about something, and looked it up. In 2011, 53 to 60% of public television’s revenue came from private donations and grants.

Toward the end of the month, we’ll be rolling out the 2020 campaign. Normally, Albert Lea Area Schools is one of our first major campaigns. This year, we chose to delay it to give everyone a chance to settle into the new routine of distance learning. Be on the lookout for ways to participate in our campaign, options to give and ways to share your support of our educators, our health care workers and  our human service providers.

As you give, think about this. You are the production team for our community. Many of our funded partners have limited opportunities to create revenue. You are the cheerleaders, the new program supporter, the ones who ensure that our community service providers have the resources they need. Let’s provide the resources, so that in the future, organizations can afford to hire an IT person, seek the services of a quality bookkeeper or a marketing person rather than wearing another hat that they’re not trained for. By expanding the opportunity for a nonprofit to hire quality services, the economy benefits as well. Small business owners are given the opportunity for new clients, and the cycle goes around. We’re all interconnected — your donations of time, talent and financial support help provide the resources needed. How are you going to help our community LIVE UNITED this fall?

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.