Pre-Covid, it wasn’t so unusual that when my husband walked in from work he would ask how my day was and “What did you teach today?” In this new abnormal, posing that question to me, an eighth-grade social studies teacher seems so irrelevant. It is not what I have taught but what I have learned from the last six-plus weeks.
I have learned that this profession that I have given so much to for close to 25 years is not meant to be conducted from a distance. I have learned that we all yearn for human connection and in my case, a classroom, whiteboard, and uproariously 20-minute funny lunches with my colleagues. I have learned that young people really do like to come to school. They continue to express how much they miss all of us — even my familiar shrieking in the halls telling them to knock it off when they get rather silly. I have learned that I am worried about every single one of them and their social and emotional well-being. Even when the isolating ends, we will have an entire transition to experience which will be filled with fear and uncertainty.
I have learned that I am willing to work 10- to 12-hour days so our students will continue to be challenged intellectually. I have learned that you can never ever be too grateful for your colleagues. As I sat in a virtual meeting with my district coordinator, principal, assistant principal, and my counterpart in eighth grade social studies, I burst into tears in the midst of acknowledging my fellow teacher and friend. I wanted him and those “with” us to know that his technological savvy has made all the difference and has helped me while we have collaborated to construct engaging and enriching work for the students.
I have learned that what I do is truly unique; there is nothing quite like it. You spend the first three months of the school year building a relationship with 90-plus individuals. The following three months are spent nurturing that relationship, and in those last few months you gently break those ties. I have learned that I am grieving the lost opportunity to see my students off to their next exciting chapter … high school.
What really keeps me inspired is what I have been retaught these last few weeks. Someday, one of those Zoom squares is going to emerge as a compassionate, courageous leader in times of crisis, and one of those other squares will be responsible for a medical breakthrough that will allow us to feel safe again when faced with another threat. Perhaps most impactful, I learned that all of those squares are resilient and ready to dive right back into their world just as I am.