Carey Farmer was struggling with what she describes as “COVID-19 era social media negativity.” A conversation with a friend and educator had recently escalated on Facebook in mid-July when the friend, who is also a teacher, had commented on one of her Facebook posts. “Nobody cares about us,” wrote her friend, referring to a divide between educators and parents regarding school reopenings, a subject fraught with general fear.
The frustration between teachers and parents seemed to be heightening to a climax, but the disconnect didn’t make logical sense to Farmer. She did care and expressed as much to her friend, who responded, “Well, not everyone can be a ‘Carey.’”
After reflecting on her friend’s response, Farmer felt certain she was not the only one who cared. She would prove to her friend and other teachers that parents did care and, in fact, needed them, especially in the case of full-time working parents. Coming from a family of teachers who spent their own dime on classroom resources, she felt motivated to take action and demonstrate that community members like her do care and could help teachers prepare for the ominously approaching school year.
“I felt that if I could be a part of the solution, others could, too,” Farmer says.
That solution turned into the McKinney Independent School District (MISD) Adopt A Classroom Teacher 2020 (Spread Covid Kindness) program. Farmer joined with friends and fellow working moms, Chontae Feldman, Lindy Jones, and Amanda Lamouroux. They created MISD Adopt A Classroom Teacher 2020 Facebook group and began providing an open avenue for MISD teachers to receive as many of their classroom wishlist items, registered through Amazon, as possible before the start of the in-person semester.
In-person classrooms and instruction begin Sept. 3. There are at least two more weeks to participate in the MISD Adopt A Teacher program on Facebook and at least 100 teachers who still need to meet their wishlist goals. Title 1 schools especially need the help, according to Farmer, because funding is often scarce and many students previously depended on community share supplies which are no longer possible with COVID-19.
The initial response, Farmer says, was unexpected and overwhelmingly supportive. In a little less than three weeks, the Facebook group grew to more than 2,000 members, supporting more than 465 teachers’ wish lists. All of MISD public schools, including 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, two intermediate schools, and one early childhood education center, are participating. Private school McKinney Christian Academy and charter school Imagine International were later added to the program.
Using detailed spreadsheets, Farmer and fellow admins post weekly “impact numbers” to demonstrate how much the group has quantitatively done for the community. “The great thing is that when we get to share the numbers, it’s a big deal because it really gets everyone to see the magnitude of what is happening in the group,” she says.
Farmer estimates that approximately $20,000 in gifts have been donated—averaging four to five gifts per teacher within five days of posting their list. At least 360 MISD teachers have received one item from their wish list and more than $2,500 have been given away as prizes or merchandise to both members and educators.
No teacher has been left behind. Extracurricular and special teachers as well as middle and high school teachers, who are sometimes forgotten at the beginning of the year, have lists on the Adopt a Teacher page.
“This may be a new way of doing things,” Farmer points out, “If this is the new norm, we might as well get it right the first time so it will make it easier on all of us.”
At first, many educators were reluctant to add items to their lists, Farmer says, because many of the things they would have wanted were not considered ‘needs’ in the eyes of administration, but would greatly improve the teacher-student experience such as microphones and laptop stands, iPhone holders, and wireless headsets.
While Farmer expected most teachers’ wishlists to include items like sanitizer or extra masks for students, the district had already taken care of those needs. Rather than the basic COVID-19 supplies, books regarding social distancing, mask wearing, and diversity and inclusion have been popular. Teaching the youngest grades to understand the new world in terms they can understand has been a priority.
“There are so many people in our world who want to help,” Famer says. “It’s given us some sense of normalcy in the classroom.”
Farmer believes that while the news and internet can seem negative and overwhelming right now, the Facebook group she and friends started is a good place to go to see the positive side of the impact of COVID-19. Students and teachers from several generations have even been gifting one another with items from their wishlist and sharing their stories on the page.
“By helping our teachers we’re also helping our students, our kids,” Farmer says.
To sponsor a teacher in MISD follow this link: facebook.com/groups/3203881652984209/