Sometimes emotions hit you when you least expect them. Today, it was in a Target parking lot after seeing a student I had never gotten the opportunity to say goodbye to last spring.
The past several months have been filled with sadness and disappointment for everyone. But, for teachers in particular, the last few weeks have doubled the grief we felt in March. All the pain we felt when schools initially closed has resurfaced. Like ripping off a Band-Aid, we have been reminded of all we lost last year. As well as all we will have to sacrifice this school year.
This summer teachers were optimistic
All summer we were hopeful. We said things like, “Maybe August will be back to normal!” “I can’t wait to see my coworkers again!” “I’m so excited to get my new rosters!” “Maybe we can get together with last year’s kids at some point!”
We pushed aside the frustrations and fears of 4th quarter, tried to enjoy our weird summer break, and prayed we would return to our classrooms full of kids in August. We trusted that “everything would be okay.” Personally, I actively tried NOT to think about back to school because I was afraid of what the impending outcome might be.
But, then summer came to a close, and all those hopes were dashed. We won’t be welcoming students back to our buildings in a few weeks. Our halls, which are usually bustling with energy and excitement, will be completely empty.
I want to be back in the classroom with my kids
I want more than anything to have kids in my classroom. I want to talk to them one-on-one, I want to learn about them, I want to laugh with them and form our own inside jokes (ones other hours “just wouldn’t get”), I want to grow and become a better teacher with them.
I know all this can happen in a virtual world, but frankly, I’m selfish enough to want the old way back. My way. I harbor no ill will towards our local health departments, or school district (in fact, I am in awe of how they have handled this craziness with such grace!). But still, I’m so incredibly disappointed. I’m frustrated by what I can’t control.
The student I ran into today is one of those that makes a huge impact on you as a teacher. A kid who regularly reached out to me during 4th quarter to see how I was doing. One of those kids who is so top notch, you want your own kids to have friends just like them when they are in middle school.
I had thought about how I would react to seeing a student from last spring out in public: wave from six feet away, talk a bit at a distance, say goodbye… But every single “social norm” I planned for went out the window this afternoon. I hugged that girl with everything I had, stood right beside her to catch up, and completely forgot that Covid existed for a few minutes.
I broke all the rules when I saw my former student
I never got to tell her goodbye last year. I didn’t get to wish her good luck in high school or take a picture with her at 8th grade promotion. For a few minutes, I was back in 3rd quarter, just talking to one of my kids. I only realized later on that I had broken ALL the rules. I was filled with joy at having the opportunity to have some closure, even if it was only with that one student.
Back to my car I thought about how my whole week had been made. I was all smiles underneath my mask. But as soon as I was sitting in the driver’s seat alone, the tears came out of nowhere. I sobbed. I cried for the other 95 students I haven’t seen in 5 months. For the kids I loved and never got to say goodbye to. For all my students who want (and deserve) normalcy. For my upcoming 8th graders who I won’t get to see face-to-face for a while.
When I got back to my car, I sobbed
I cried because of the uncertainty of the future, frustration at our current situation, and all the memories I will never get to share with my students.
Life is hard right now. I try so hard to be optimistic, but sometimes, you just need to cry. BUT, then you have no option except to pick yourself up and focus on how to make the best of an absolutely terrible situation.
Lean on each other, support those around you (even when-especially when-their personal opinions differ from yours), and above all, be kind. We are all struggling. We all need love. People are dealing with the impossible every single day. We need each other’s grace.