The holiday season is quickly approaching, and the teacher in me is tired and worn down, but still filled with so much joy to be living through history with the most amazing kids. Their energy sustains me even when I’m not sure I can keep going. The struggle is real and it’s no secret that COVID-19 is taking a toll on the hearts of teachers. While planning for my students’ learning and growth academically, I feel most responsible for their health and wellness. I don’t want my kids to be fearful, so I carry the fear for all of them. “Wash your hands, watch your distance, you are too close, spread out!” Planning and implementing a structure for learning, while keeping everybody safe has been such a constant emotional balance. Even so, I’m finding personal value in this very difficult time.
I am learning about myself and I feel myself growing as I navigate this ever-changing world of technology and blended learning. I am doing very hard things, that even after 34 years in the classroom, catch me off guard as I find myself on totally new ground. Each day, I teach 21 learners in my classroom, and 7 more online. We come together through the magic of technology for at least three hours a day and it’s amazing how the children have bonded together across time and space to be a real family. It’s not optimal by any stretch of the imagination, but all signs point to growth for all my children--and I know that learning is what they need to be doing, so I’m making peace with this impossible situation, and making memories with students that I know will last their entire lifetime. Even the simple act of reading novels aloud and holding video discussions as we go helps bring my learners together in a way that transcends the walls of our classroom. When we come together online each morning as a family of learners, and every one is logging in, I play the song “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers and greet each student individually. It’s a declaration and an acclamation that any time spent learning and growing with them, whether in person or online, is special to me. It’s a part of our routine and it just feels good to start our day that way.
Now more than ever, I see that joy is a choice for me. Some days are harder than others, and the choice seems beyond my reach. The demands are so great! Lesson plans, grading, professional learning community meetings, standardized assessments, IEP’s and 504’s, all keep coming as we get up everyday and face this pandemic alongside our co-workers and children. The regular stresses that fall on teachers, in combination with the weight of COVID-19, is huge! Teachers have always been heroes in my book, but now more than ever, we are playing a role in saving the world by keeping life and learning going for our children in the classroom and in a virtual setting. So far, I have been blessed to have not lost anyone personally to this terrible virus, but others have not been so fortunate. It’s real, and it’s scary for all of us. But for me being in the classroom feels like the right thing. I respect that other educators may have a different point of view, and I know that we all have to make the choices that are best for us individually in these difficult days.
As the virus resurges across our land, I can feel the tension and weariness growing around me. We are tired physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I need a hug right now, more than I can say, and I know all my educator friends feel the same way. But we can’t afford to get angry or frustrated with each other. It is what it is, and in my state, schools are open. This is our reality, and kindness is more necessary now than ever. We are all struggling in our personal and professional lives, as people we love are quarantined, locked down, and in some cases becoming ill. It’s time for a break, but it’s also time for grace. Everyone in the school building from the Principal to the Custodians are giving it their all to make this work. Let’s reach out to each other in love, with intentionality, and provide encouragement and support as we all tie one more knot in this rope we feel like we are at the end of, and hang on for dear life.
Whatever teaching situation you are in right now, you are doing such important work. Thank you for not giving up, or giving in to the madness. Our children need us, and they deserve the very best we can give them--whatever that is right now. We can scream and cry about how unfair this all is to teachers, or we can continue to do what we do, and change the world one student at a time. We give our lives and our hearts to the students we teach, and that has never been more true than it is in 2020, for we are literally being asked to lay down our lives for our children. The weight of that is tremendous and burdensome not only to us, but to our own families, yet we continue to do what we were born to do, and show up for our children with our invisible capes flapping behind us day after day.
Stay strong and keep on keeping on, teacher friends. Take care of you. Don’t forget to claim time for yourself and for your own family. You are doing enough, we all are! There has been much said about “toxic positivity” recently, and I get it, but there are still so many beautiful reasons to be happy and positive. 28 of them have been placed in my care this year, and I take that very personally. I know you do, too. With the holidays approaching, I am still so thankful for this calling on my life. There is no work more important than ours.
We can do this! We ARE doing this! We are strong, we are brave, we are enough, WE ARE TEACHERS!