As my 12th school year as a public school teacher is coming to an end, I can honestly say that this year has been the most difficult yet. I love my job, I wholeheartedly do, but the 20-21 school year began with the unknown and has left me feeling both mentally and physically drained.
For me, teaching has always been a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve watched students reach goals that they once thought to be impossible. I’ve cheered them on in the classroom and on the sidelines. I’ve seen students experience things in their young lives that I’m fortunate to know nothing about. When teachers leave work, we don’t stop thinking about our students. We worry about them, we pray for them, we love them. We want them to be successful and when they aren’t, we add blame to ourselves.
When we said goodbye to our students and wished them a fun spring break, we never would have imagined that would be the last time we’d see most of them again. Schools shut down last spring, but teachers never stopped. We didn’t have an extended spring break. We were asked to completely change the way we taught by transitioning from in-class learning to this thing called distance learning in a week’s time all while most of us were taking care of our own children at home. I’d say teachers worked harder the last term of that school year than they ever had before. It was at that point that our jobs dramatically changed. We were Zooming, Google meeting, and online teaching from our kitchen tables.
When the announcement came that schools would resume both in person and/or virtually in the fall of 2020, there were lots of unknowns. Despite the Covid-19 guidelines that seemed nearly impossible to maintain in a classroom, teachers stepped up and showed up. Not only did they rise to the occasion, but they screened kids, socially distanced students, taught through masks, and of course, sanitized everything along the way.
A Letter to My Fellow Teachers
To my fellow teachers,
I see you, in person, and that cute little Bitmoji you so perfectly matched to your style. Your job was difficult before and then a pandemic hit and without notice, your roles as a teacher were extended. Your already growing to-do list just doubled this school year.
You taught face-to-face students and virtual students at the same time. On your break, you responded to emails, met with students, resolved technical issues, on top of your regular teacher duties, and if you’re lucky, you got to fit in a restroom break.
You prerecorded lessons outside of school hours to ensure that all students received the same instruction.
You managed to keep students socially distanced in school, yet kept an engaging learning environment.
You greeted new students with a smile and hoped that they could see it in your eyes.
You made connections with students you never actually met in person and built a relationship with them through a computer screen.
I’ve been in the trenches like you! I’ve experienced being a teacher during a typical school year, and I know what it is like to teach during a pandemic. The struggle is real. You are essential, you always have been, I’m just sorry it took a nationwide shutdown for some to see your worth and value.
I know you’re tired. I know that you’ve questioned whether you can do this or not. You CAN do this! You ARE doing this! When it all hits you at once remember why it is that you chose a career in education. Remember the teacher that inspired you. Remember your why.
It’s okay if you’re not the first car in the parking lot in the morning or the last one to leave in the afternoons. Go home. Rest your feet, rest your mind, but mostly rest your heart.
My hope is that whatever this school year has thrown at you, that you don’t forget that what you do daily matters. Your students are watching, they’re learning, and they need you.
The Teacher Next Door