In just a couple of weeks, we’ll be heading back to school. I’m having a LOT of mixed feelings about it. Everyone keeps asking if we’re excited and ready, and my answer is, “it’s complicated.” 2020 was supposed to be the best year of my life: Welcoming our first baby into the world, taking some time off from work, and then finishing out the school year before summer break – but right after Davis was born, Covid-19 made it into the U.S. and schools started closing across the entire world. Everything has been messed up and different for so long that the idea of going back to school is really unsettling for me. No one knows what it’s going to look like or what to expect, and I’m someone who likes to know what’s coming. I think we all are, to a certain extent.
In the past year and a half, so much of our guidance has changed. Teachers are stretched thinner than ever, and more and more keeps piling on us. We have been unable to do our jobs well and keep children as safe as we need to. Meanwhile, we worry about our own children and families at home while we work in a large population every day. We are trying to teach children at home and in person at the same time. It’s impossible. Relationship building with students has become more difficult than ever. Our in-person students are even more addicted to their phones, so teaching feels like a joke at times. I don’t know if this is true for younger grades, but I teach high school, and it has been unreal.
My anxiety went through the roof last school year, along with everyone else’s. I couldn’t access any of my favorite things about my career. I love the pace of the classroom: Walking around and checking on my students, sitting next to them while they work, speaking to each of them as they walk in. Conversations with colleagues in the hall or the workroom keep us sane during the day. With virtual teaching, there was of course none of that – but even when students returned to the building, it was so strange and difficult. The end of the school year couldn’t come fast enough.
Of course I realize that parents are also stressed and stretched thin. We all are! But teachers are parents, too. And we are helping other children in addition to our own. I don’t say that to say teachers have it harder than anyone else, but to shed light that we are dealing with the same things everyone else is.
There is no perfect answer, but it got really disheartening constantly hearing people badmouth teachers throughout the last school year. We were doing our jobs. We were working just as hard as we ever did before. Many of us spent hours transferring lessons and documents to an online format. We worked hard to make things smoother for our students, recording videos, and checking in through messaging apps. I made myself extra available and sent newsletters home every couple of weeks. To hear that parents thought we were doing nothing and collecting a paycheck was such a slap in the face. And there was A LOT of that going around. Of course there are bad teachers – there have always been bad teachers. But there are also bad doctors, project managers, business owners, and everything elses out there in the world.
I have written about mental health and taking care of ourselves a ton on the blog, most specifically in this post. Students are experiencing anxiety and depression at higher rates than ever before; so are all of the adults that take care of them. As soon as we felt a sliver of normalcy with vaccines and the slowing of the virus spread, the new Delta variant came. Now everything seems like it is backtracking again. I have always loved my job, and I do still have hope. Y’all know I believe in hope and positivity, but the last year and a half has made it difficult to be optimistic. I wish there was a little more time between the last school year and this one, but here we are.
One good thing amidst all of this craziness is that we are moving back into our real school, which has been totally rebuilt. It’s definitely exciting to be moving into a beautiful, brand new school building. However, even that has its stressors! Settling in, making a new home in your classroom, learning the building, helping students find everything. But I’m really excited to do all of those things, even though it brings a little bit of stress to the table.
As we head back to school, I am wishing all my teacher friends out there the strength and hope they need to make it through those first couple of weeks. I’m also wishing all the parents that same strength and hope – we all need it. We have done this before, and we’ll navigate as we go. I still believe in us, I still believe in our kids, and I do believe that things will improve.
I won’t throw all the annoying buzzwords from the last year and a half at you, like “grace,” “new normal,” “unprecedented,” etc. BUT I do think that since we have to do it, we will. It’s our only choice. And I think it’s okay for that to be the reality right now. So get out there, grab yourself a nice planner to keep everything organized, find an outfit (and mask) you feel good in, and just do the dang thing.