Do your job!

By Dawn McLaughlin

The words do your job were made famous by the New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and have been said over and over again in regards to getting a win by doing your job. 

At Milo Elementary and Brownville Elementary this year we are experiencing a staffing shortage, teachers, bus drivers, and custodians, and educational technicians are sorely needed to provide a safe and proficient learning environment. We are missing people in every category. As a result the staff has had to do more than just their job. On any given day teachers can be found moping their classrooms, cleaning student desks, and emptying the trash.  Teachers are serving lunch, emptying trays, running the dishwasher and sweeping the cafeteria floor to get the gymnasium ready for physical education class. Teachers with their bus license are driving bus runs. The transportation director and maintenance director are covering evening shifts so our schools can be cleaned.

Every single person is doubling up on duties to make sure we have coverage for recess so the children are safe. The principal and dean of students are traveling between schools to put out all the fires that arise during a day in an elementary school. Teachers are assisting long-term substitute teachers so that our students are receiving the very best that our curriculum has to offer. 

Amazing things are happening in these two rural schools despite the lack of staff. The added responsibilities are no doubt taking their toll on each and every staff member that is pitching in where ever necessary. If you think about what an elementary school teacher already has on their plate it comes as no surprise that some are questioning whether teaching is the best profession for them at this point.

Despite their wondering they continue to respond to every request made of them to do more and more with a resounding yes. My hope is that we can focus on this positive reaction to an untenable situation and not the low test scores that will no doubt be coming our way due to the incredibly taxing job of educating in understaffed schools. I for one am so proud to be a part of a staff that continues to do more and more with less and less. Let’s shine the light on this community of educators that are stepping up time and time again for all of their children.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the lack of substitute teachers available to cover our classrooms during absences. One of our teachers has been struggling with a health issue since the beginning of school, but has come in every day. When her doctor said she needed to be admitted she said you have to come up with another option because she had 3 IEPs this week so that would not work. This educator is clearly kid-centric to the point of coming to work when she should be in the hospital.

This is what teachers are made of, incredible grit and compassion. Putting their students before themselves at every turn. Thank you Milo and Brownville Elementary staff for stepping up for students. I see you and your efforts are not going unnoticed. Thanks for helping me change the world one student at a time.  

McLaughlin, who teaches physical education and health at Milo Elementary and Brownville Elementary, is the 2023 Piscataquis County Teacher of the Year.

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