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“And that’s when she bit my arm.”

I looked at my favorite niece Katie and asked, “Well, did you bite her back?”

Katie gave me “the look” in return.

After the required silence of “the look,” Katie smiled the smile that one gives a lesser brain who just doesn’t understand.

“Uncle David. Teachers don’t act that way in a classroom.”

Hey, I’m old school. Bite the child back. See how the 5-year-old likes it when someone bites her.

I know my dinosaur logic must have disappointed Katie that day. She was born to teach kindergarten. Katie chose to teach inner-city kindergarten school children in Chicago. Besides being my favorite niece, Katie is one of my heroes because she chose to teach.

I love and respect our teachers.

My mother, the saint, although not a paid professional teacher, was my favorite teacher. She raised five highly active, mischievous children. We were a constant challenge.

My mother had many tools in her arsenal to keep us in line. A good spanking. Sending us to bed without dinner. No TV for a month. She was a resourceful disciplinarian, and we children were no match.

Naturally, her best tool was lots of love and lots of hugs. We wanted to please her.

Imagine if she had none of the unpleasant choices in her disciplinary toolbox. Wouldn’t we five children have run wild?

Imagine further if each of us five children had been assigned a neighbor advocate to constantly judge and correct my mother’s teaching and disciplining. Yikes. Who would want that job?

That is what it is like to be a teacher today. Almost every day, the behavior of each of your 25 children changes based on what happened at home, on the playground, whether they had enough to eat, or whether they had a good night’s sleep. What worked on a child yesterday might be a disaster today.

A teacher’s best efforts are constantly second-guessed by 25 different child advocates. Parents should spend the whole day in a classroom to appreciate a teacher’s daily challenge.

A teacher is no doubt a mother, father, teacher, psychiatrist, social worker, policeman and priest all rolled up into one person.

Did I mention I love and respect teachers?

Teachers have written to tell me, with COVID-19, how anxious they are about going back to school. I understand and sympathize.

In any regular year, the school is a human petri dish swimming with a variety of nasty bugs. Many of us remember when just one child got sick from a schoolmate. How the bug spread throughout the household.

While the child quickly bounced back, the parents took much longer to recover. That’s the healthcare hazard a teacher faces in normal times.

Now we have COVID-19.

There are those who want to mock the teachers for their fear of COVID-19. After all, the Publix checkout line is open, nurses are working, the fast-food drive-through is open. Quit complaining, they say. Teachers, strap on your backbone and go back to work.

Most of us understand America cannot return to any sense of normalcy until our schools reopen and settle down. We are calling our teachers back to their jobs. For the vast majority, we are calling them back to their passion in life.

While reopening our schools, can we show our teachers the respect they earn each day they are in the classroom? There’s too much barking and biting about how we return to the classroom.

As my favorite – and only – niece Katie explained to me, there is a better choice. If someone bites you, can you try not to bite back?

Share your thoughts.

David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at David@d-r.media.