First of all, thank you. I recognize that it is stressful, that your weekends are almost nonexistent, that you are learning almost as much as the students are, and that you are TIRED. This is not something you asked for, there is no happy solution to this predicament, but you are still teaching! The procedures and curriculum, and classroom environments are constantly changing. You have to adapt on a moment’s notice to the new way of doing things. Your home has become your classroom, your computer has become your workspace, and it is unfamiliar. Teachers during the pandemic have had to re-invent the learning process, despite the impossibility of doing so. This is a moment in history that will be remembered for years to come. You are putting forth your best efforts, and they are seen.
Though I have a general idea of the hardship that you all have been put through, in a much more real sense, I have no idea what it is like to be teaching during a worldwide pandemic. The staff meetings, the online or hybrid classrooms, and the parent-teacher meetings are just the beginning. However, I am aware that even more things you do behind the scenes I am oblivious to.
For those in the classroom, sanitizing nearly everything, measuring desks six feet apart, and continually reminding students (and coworkers at times) to wear their masks correctly are among just a few things to add to your typical duties. For the teachers who have gone remote, setting up online classroom times and assignments, dealing with the distractions of home life while trying to juggle the virtual teaching world, and making sure your students have the handouts and resources for remote learning all contribute to the additional workload that no one saw coming. Teachers who are in-between these two in a hybrid format, I can only imagine what a toll it must be to have to be ready to switch teaching platforms on the flip of a dime.
Take a moment and pause. You are an active part of making history. 2020 will go down as the year that we all had to get creative, live at a distance, and be flexible. However, you are among the first teachers to take this challenge head-on and ensure that students are not robbed of a good education. It was unforeseen, that’s for sure. However, the way that you all have adapted so quickly and efficiently to a whole new world of teaching makes a difference and shows students that even adults have to be open to the lemons of life.
Though it may not be the year of easy teaching (honestly, I don’t know such a year exists!), you are teaching life lessons that you may not even recognize. Teachers make mistakes, too. Adults have to be flexible, too. Challenges don’t stop at childhood. We all have to cope with the curveballs thrown our way, regardless of age or stage of life.
Those technical difficulties you are having aren’t failures; they are opportunities to show students that mistakes happen and okay. As an educator in a pandemic, you teach valuable socio-emotional skills that students may not have otherwise learned – how to be human in the midst of unanticipated adversity.
I know you miss your students and the classroom “family” that you work hard to cultivate and maintain. There is a joy that comes with getting to know your individual kiddos and being a part of their learning experience, up-close and personally. The joy of teaching seems to decline when the students aren’t there in person to make a funny comment, to answer a question with enthusiasm, or even just smile at you from across the room. Those “aha moments” are harder to witness through a blue-light screen.
It’s okay to mourn the normalcy that has been lost. I guarantee that the students miss being in your room just as much as you miss them. In their own way, they have to cope with the extreme changes, too. You’re not alone in this. Please remember that there is a reason you chose this profession. You enjoy being around the children of the future. You long to contribute and help students make sense of the world around them. Still, you continue to fulfill your vision, just in a much different way than college or teacher prep courses prepared you for.
I think the majority of parents have shown their appreciation in one way or another, pre-pandemic. Whether they show up to volunteer, send extra tissues/glue/snacks to class, or send gifts and thank-you notes to teachers, many people recognize that the world would be lost without people like you. In another sense, I realize some parents aren’t as vocal about their gratitude. These are the parents that tend to send strongly worded emails rather than an appreciation note. Regardless of the parents you work with, you cannot replace them along with the students.
Your job as a teacher is one thing, but students look up to you, too. They admire you as a person. You are different from their home life, a role model outside of the family, and that is priceless. Students need to see that other adults are there for them. And here you are. On the Zoom call or socially distanced in the classroom – you are there.
Thank you once again. Please take care of yourself, continue to do what you are doing, and I guarantee you are making a difference in more than just the kids’ lives. You can do this. You are doing this! Years from now, you can look back on this moment in history and say, “I was an essential worker, and I didn’t give up.” I appreciate you; your community appreciates you. You are part of the strong community of teachers who never gave up during the pandemic, and continued to work hard for their students.
Sincerely – A teaching associate that admires your incredible efforts.
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