• Jennifer Smith

What's It Like to be a Teacher Right Now?

Written: July 13, 2021

Screaming. Laughing. Running. Tackling. Singing. Playing. And then silence. Silence for months. Teaching from a screen. Teaching from a letter. Connecting from phones. Not what teaching was meant to be, and certainly, not what most of us signed up for. Yet, we persisted. We persisted and turned our methods on a dime because we care about kids.

Teachers are tired right now. We’re tired because we worked so very hard to continue teaching and making connections with students during a time when many of us found it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning. We’re tired because we smiled when no one wanted to smile. All day long to a screen. We’re tired because we made stupid jokes that no one laughed at anymore. We’re tired because we saw the impact of this pandemic on the next generation. The generation of students in whom we had seen sunlight and hope-we now saw silence and sadness. We’re tired because teaching online was flat. There was no energy coming back at us, and most of all, it was silent. Teachers are not accustomed to silence. All. The. Time.

We feel underappreciated. This, of course, is nothing new. But now, after all of the work we did this spring, it feels like a punch to the gut. Teachers worked very hard to turn their in person classes to virtual learning experiences. No easy feat, let me tell you. How do you change a collaborative group project for creating an historical game into an online experience? What about an art project using mosaics? Or a chemistry experiment? And of course, most of us did it over the course of a weekend. No doubt there would be successes, and there would be failures. We have never been forced into a situation like this before, and tools were not readily available to everyone. Yet, we tried our best. And now, most of what we hear about are the failures. All the while, most of us spend our summer crafting, designing, and planning to adjust our lessons to fit with some type of hybrid design. A design we have yet to hear about as our decisions must roll with the virus.

On top of that, most of us are anxious. We are anxious to return to our classrooms — we have been away for months. We are anxious to see smiling faces of students which will now likely be covered with masks. We are anxious to see our colleagues. We miss the noise. We miss the screaming, the running, the laughing. We even miss the rainy day indoor recesses. And yet too, we are anxious about the health risks involved in spending 8 hours a day among hundreds of students. Will there be a sensible plan? Will we be exposed? Will we receive time off with pay if we are exposed? Will we take the virus home to our families? Who will cover our classes if we are out sick for weeks at a time? Will our students, and our own children, be put at risk? How will we enforce social distancing? What emotional state will children be in when they return from months of isolation?

We want society to see us. To validate our experiences and give us hope. Ease our fears and involve us in the conversation. So far, that’s not happening.

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