It is an understatement to say that this is one of the most unusual and unexpected times in education. I am going on my 14th year in education and I can truly say I have never seen anything like it. It is a physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting time for everyone going through the pandemic. Yet, my heart reaches out to you because I know that there is something even more emotional about educating our youth. Our future. There is something even more emotional about being in the trenches every day with students and hoping that you are doing your best by them.
At this time of year, you should feel refreshed from summer break and excited to start the new year. I know you are excited to teach and meet new students. However, I also recognize that there are a variety of emotions out there for each of you. There are some of you that are ready to return to the classroom and it can be frustrating to not be on campus with your students. On the flip side, there are some of you that are torn between the frustration of not being with your students but also feeling like you are not ready to be on campus yet. It’s okay to feel either way. You are entitled to your feelings.
On top of this, I have seen how some of you have struggled with the change of narrative in social media. In the spring, you were regarded as heroes. Parents saw how challenging it can be to be a teacher. News agencies shared the amazing stories of how teachers were reaching out to their students and families. Everyone was grateful for all that you had done to support their students from a distance. Then, the narrative started to slowly change. When summer came, the news on education went silent for a time. It’s not a strange thing that occurred. School was out and there was a lot going on in the world. Yet, when education returned to the forefront of people’s minds, there was a shift from teachers being “heroes” to them “not doing enough”, “failing distance learning”, or only wanting to do “distance learning because they didn’t want to return to school”. Teachers – I beg of you. Hear these comments but don’t let them affect you. These comments come from a place of pain and frustration. You are doing amazing things. Do not let the narrative discourage you.
As we move into a new school year, I know that many of you are starting the year in distance learning. There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty that comes with it. I know you are worried about reaching all of your students. I know that you are trying to figure out how to reach all of the content standards while still supporting them socially and emotionally. I know that some of you are new to technology and the learning curve can be steep. I know that all of this can be so overwhelming that there are times you feel like, or already have, broken down in tears because…like I said earlier, education is an emotional job. And, while my heart breaks for you during this overwhelming and anxious time, I also see hope for our students in the way that you care about them. I see that the passion that you have for them will carry you through the struggle and, more importantly, it will be a light to those students who are struggling as well.
Teachers, at the end of the day, I hope only one thing for our you and our students during this time:
I simply hope that you do your best to do right by students and then give yourself grace during imperfection.
Distance learning is not going to look perfect. In fact, it’s going to a hot mess sometimes. There will be times where you might feel like you are failing your students…and, I urge you not to feel this way. I urge you to slow down and reflect. Slow down and ask yourself, “Did I do my best to do right by my students?” and then give yourself grace for the moments that are not perfect. Whether you are a veteran teacher or a new teacher, this will be a struggle for everyone. Give yourself grace.
Finally, I urge you to support your fellow teachers. These are the ones in the trenches with you. They are the ones that understand the daily struggle – whether physically, emotionally, or mentally. Collaborate with one another. Share ideas and do not hold them tightly to your chest. Check on one another. Give grace to others. Share the good times and share the struggles. It will keep you sane.
I am not going to lie and say that this year will be easy. It won’t…but you will be okay. You will do amazing things. You will grow personally. You will grow professionally. You will become a stronger person because of it.
Remember, let go of the narrative, do your best by students and support each other.