Dear teacher friends,
I’m thinking of you so much in these coronavirus, shelter-in-place, no school for the foreseeable future days. It’s been a few years since I was a classroom teacher, spending my days surrounded by fifth graders, but it’s never so far from me that I don’t remember how that job felt. I don’t mean the big career-long feeling of being a teacher, but the everyday feelings. The feeling of standing all day on the tile floor. The feeling of my pinky leading my hand and a marker across the white board as I work my hardest to write the morning work in straight lines. The feeling of a Friday afternoon with your lesson plans done and turned in and still not walking out the door until 5pm or later because you just NEEDED to change that one bulletin board before Monday. The feeling of hugging the children as they left for the day or grading papers or wiping tears from my eyes as I read the last pages of a Narnia novel to them at the end of a busy week.
The feeling of knowing that Ms. Downs meant something to them every day, and they meant something deep to me.
I remember all those feelings, but I can’t imagine what you are feeling right now. Now that you are teaching the kids from your home to theirs, trying to stay in touch with the ones that may not have all the resources they need, worrying about the ones you worried about when you sent them home for two weeks at Christmas. I know you feel so much concern for the one sweet girl, already struggling in math, but you knew you just needed a few more weeks to help her catch up. I know you planned to give your son’s long sleeve t-shirt to the little guy who shows up in the same shirt a couple of times a week, you just wanted to wash it and wait until after spring break to slip it into his backpack. I know you were ready for Field Day (to be over LOL) and ready for the end of the year clean up and I know you had put your heart and soul into helping them be ready for the testing that comes in the spring.
I know you had started IEPs and EIPs and 504s and gifted testing for kids that were just on the verge of getting the extra help or push they needed. I know you had called the counselor because something is off with one student and you talked to the social worker because something is amiss with another. I know you had meetings planned and parent conferences and musicals and plays and projects and just LIFE TOGETHER still to be lived. That life you build for the students. That room you made into a PLACE for them, where they were safe and fed and cared for and at this point in the year, the classroom runs itself. Everyone knows where everything goes and they are home. For those eight(ish) hours, while it has never been perfect, on most days, it was really good.
I know. It’s all so heartbreaking. I know you feel hopeless and helpless because there are kids you love that are hungry and scared and dirty and in danger. When people joke you are lucky to be home, I know it doesn’t totally feel that way to you. I know you cry. I know you pray. I know you are losing sleep. I know you drive neighborhoods to wave at your students because if they can just see your face in person, you know they will feel calmer.
I know all this about you because I taught next door to you or down the hall from you. I ate lunch with you and had bus duty with you and cried with you after school. I know you feel these things because this was always more than a paycheck to you- it was, it is, a calling. It is an honor to help raise those kids and you were in it for 180 days and the agreement you made is not the one you get to keep. I’m so sorry and so sad with you.
I just want you to hear me say you’ve done a really good job this year. You gave a lot of yourself for a lot of days. The emotional weight of what you are dealing with now is heavy. It feels like too much because honestly it probably is. I don’t know why this is the story that you will live for the 2019-2020 school year and I don’t know why this is the class it happened to, but I do know that God put y’all all in that same school and same classroom for a reason. And what you gave them, and will give them, will be enough.
Do you hear me, friend? What you gave them is enough. They will treasure it. God will take those seeds and grow them. These students will learn what they need to learn this year, next year will bring additional resources and help and because you’ll work extra hard to help your new students catch up and be on grade level, you can trust the teacher a grade above you will do the same for your kids as they move up. For today, your prayers will go far as you pray for provision and protection. You have authority still- those are still your kids- pray like it.
All will be well. Your soul will continue to ache, the tears will fall, but let that remind you that my gosh you are right where you are supposed to be. I loved teaching because I loved the kids, but I also loved teaching because I got to work with people like you- who care, who cry, who love and work and commit beyond what you are paid to do. Thank you. May God keep you healthy and be near to you as you finish this school year in the most unexpected way.
Ms. Downs … the loud teacher next door. 🙂