This is a reflection about my first daze of high school 2020 as an educator in their 8th-ish year of teaching.  

This may have been the weirdest first school year days of my life– putting me in an absolute daze. I think this makes this a really important journal entry.

Not once in my whole life have I managed to get a journal entry down on my first week of school. I’m too busy. Looking at rosters, watching Donna, my teaching assistant, stand on chairs putting up signs about math, sports, and character while I say if they’re crooked. Too busy with hellos and cleaning. Those first days, there was no time to reflect for some desk had gone missing and you bet it’s my favorite one. Down the halls tracking it down and having it out with the teacher who ended up with it, jokingly of course, for we only truly have it out over who has the worst duties. Drawing straws and on to the next hassle we go. 

So many things happening in person normally– no time to reflect. All the things I usually dread and joke will make my hair fall out. You want THIS classroom ready by WHEN?! You want me to have an activity to do in WHAT room? 

Now in this school year, I find myself unsure of where I’ll even physically be this year and I’m left to wonder about so much more. Left to reflect in these first few days on why I’m here. Why do I do this? 

This profession has wrapped my whole life into academia and the seasons of the books. I am forever in school and honestly, I like it that way. I live by the seasons of rugby, which happen to align, and of course the start of the school year. Never felt quite right saying happy new year in January when my kids come in September. For me it is more like, Happy New Year School Year Day 1! September it is- my happiness, my restart. This year that is the same, but also so different. 

No first day hugs or convocation performances, no bagels! Are my priorities showing?  

Anyway in my first few days, I still found myself frantic over outfits, later realizing only my shirt belt up mattered. Frantic over my hair– which has gotten so damn long it requires a half a bottle of something to behave on screen. Frantic to be ready to be seen recalling one of my favorites last year EXCLAIMING that he “came to be seen, Miss!!” Community, how I miss thee!

When I was finally ‘seen’, I remembered why I do this. My colleagues all there, frantic just the same– all of us most frantic to say HELLO. Working together on this journey reminded me how lucky I am to be here. Lucky to have these coworkers and the opportunity to continue to learn through this process.

Working together in professional development meetings reminding me that we were all that kid in class, the one who raised their hand. School was that place for us— the place we aim to make our school for our kids. 

The one class I ever failed in my entire life was also the only class I was ever forced to take online. A fully virtually hell lead by a seemingly monstrous woman that signed off as “Best [Name]” The lack of care in her voice over the phone would ruminate in my nightmares for years to come. Best. She signed off and said “Best.” Signing off, never online when I needed her. Never understanding that the virtual world wasn’t real to me. What do you mean this was due already? I have a degree in math. I DON’T MISS ASSIGNMENTS. I DON’T FAIL CLASSES. 

What do you mean I can’t redo this? This class is a pre-req… are you for real?

My virtual hell is spiraling in my brain realizing that now it’s me with the class projects. Me clicking “assign” and hoping for the best. Assign and go get my coffee, sip and feet up while I wait for the reply…

All of that said, this has certainly not been something I have been looking forward to. 

Am I going to be that class for a kid? Am I going to be that one class they fail? They hate? They ruminate on for years when thinking of their failures? 

Jesus Christ, am I going to be “Best, Michie Smash” 

Here’s the thing. The answer is not a solid no and my god, that is terrifying. 

Unfortunately it is instead a solid “I don’t know.” I very well could be. 

All I can do in the words of my father is the “best I can do” to not be– and that honestly just means continuing the life of a special education teacher. I am going to watch and make sure my kids don’t fall between the cracks, not without me seeing them at least. 

Kids may end up there and it sucks, but I have to keep trying. The most important thing to me is that kid is there seeing me and knowing someone sees them. Someone is cheering for them, even if they’re already down there stuck. Someone is calling them on their phone and trying to wake them up to do their work, even if they won’t or can’t right now. 

Being trapped is a lot less scary with someone at the top holding their hand out. 

So that’s it. That is my job in this time. I gotta be there to teach, but also to hold my hand out.

I’m not the smartest person there is, but I’m also not the dumbest. I believe in different intelligences and learning online was just not for me. You have to realize that for some kids that is gonna be this time period for them. Some kids are not going to be a able to learn the way they would this year and catch up. I am going to let them know that I’m there for them anyway and I’m gonna be there to get them through it when they can. 

I didn’t have the luxury of switching teachers or even re-taking that class in person, but I did have the saving grace of someone holding their hand out. I had an advisor who saw me, met with me, and didn’t let me give up. She saw me not just for a minute, but through that whole class and checked in with me to make sure it wasn’t happening again. She even middle manned between me and Best when the wails and sobs of grad school came knocking on my door again. My entire life was not only changed, but built upon that hand out.

Clearly, I more than survived to tell that tale– even with that B-. (Really, Best?!) Anyway, maybe that very thing happened so one day I would have that in the back of my head now. Maybe that happened so I would remember to put my hand out this year. 

To all the other educators out there, please remember to hold your hand out and don’t just sign off “Best, Michie Smash.” Don’t sign off and hope for them. Please hold your goddamn hand out. For some of us that means breaking traditional boundaries of education, maybe giving the kid your cell number for the help they need. This is all new and scary, but we all have to find the way to get our hands out for those kids [and just maybe for some fellow staff, too.] 

A wise professor of mine used to sign off “Onwards and Upwards.” This feels particularly fitting right now for the year except it’s more like onward and upwards and sideways AND MAYBE BACK A BIT, but please for the love of alll things holy end up somewhere towards upwards by June. Amen. 

OH! And if you’re out there reading, no hard feelings. You see we learn from the ‘best!’