This is a personal account of what it is like to be a teacher right now, at least for me. I am a self contained Algebra teacher working in a high school.
I wake up every day exhausted. I try to trick myself into thinking I need to be at work earlier than I do just to get the most out of the lesson planning capability that I do have. I need to use that energy because I’m wrecked by the end of the day. Then I get there the earliest I can and find myself so starved for the coworkers I don’t get to really engage with, during the almost no break-feeling, sometimes isolated day.
I end up needing time to talk and settle. I have to stop working the second I finally get started– not even half of what I wanted to. I make another to do list. I compile the list, throw it out on Friday when I need to wash the week away.
I am one of the lucky few who have 2 in person classes out of my mostly virtual schedule. I try to give them every ounce of energy I can muster, but they’re tired too. Even in person, these kids have to be in virtual classes for long parts of the day like me. They are, of course, my favorite part of the day. Even if they are tired, even if they are cranky- they are there. That gives me way more of a chance than I feel I have online and at least I know if they are sleeping.
The computer is rotting my brain and torturing my soul. I feel sucked into the screen of my phone even after I can get off the computer screen. I have no energy for anything real, so I scroll. I text. I do nothing of substance because I can’t. I am so drained. I can’t picture getting on my computer for fun right now. Writing has been hard, reading nonexistent. I remember the Sims game where the character wouldn’t run or read when its life line wasn’t high enough. I guess I just need to work on getting myself back in the green.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m well. I am well enough, at least. I have a job and I’m so very grateful for that. I love my students, as well as my also stressed coworkers. My friends are great and the time we do get together is a different kind of cherished, but takes a whole different level of planning. I am working to give myself what I need when I have the bits of energy needed to do so. I still am getting out on a run once or twice a week. Once I leave for my runs, I can finally move my head away from school, a welcome mind break. Getting myself to leave though is like dragging a mutt into a vet for the first time. I just don’t want to.
What do I want to do? I want to melt on my bed the second I get home and go to sleep at 6. If I can summon up some energy to do more work, I do. Mostly I just crash the past week or so. Sometimes I do fall asleep at 6pm and then I’m up at 3am. I lay there waiting for the time I need to get up and get to work. That time is oddly enough ‘me time’, sometimes more than I got the whole day before. Me time, tired and wishing for sleep- but happy to be home for a few more hours.
I know I am fortunate, but I feel like I am a first year teacher again.
Every day is hard, even the really good days. Every lesson that goes well virtually is like I finally video taped the lesson I need to show my professor to pass in grad school. It isn’t the best, but I showed I read the chapter and that I could do the thing. It feels that exciting, too. I am so proud in that moment that I almost feel pathetic saying I have taught for a decade.
Most days right now, there are multiple times when I don’t feel like I can do the thing.
Thank god for that ‘share my screen’ feature and honestly for my kids being understanding. They will show me how to do things faster when they see I’m doing it wrong. Dammit, kids show us the way sometimes. They have been more understanding than I could imagine I would be at that age. I would be angry that I wasn’t in school, angry these lessons didn’t flow like school does usually. They aren’t though. They get it. Honestly, I can’t remember some of these kids’ faces yet because they hardly come on screen, but they’re in this with me. I can feel that.
We’re all in this together. ‘All in for Albany’ is what my district says and it’s true.
No one would say this isn’t the worst experience they have ever had in education though. No one would say they aren’t scared for our kids. No one ever wanted to go through this as teachers or students. So we have to be in it together. We’re forced to work with what we have.
I teach students with disabilities so the retention of my kids is beyond at stake. The repetition they already need is immense and it hurts my heart to feel they’re being put so far away from where they should be. My heart is aching for what they are losing out on everyday including the basic love and affection of their peers.
I hugged my best friend every single day when I got to high school. School was my place of belonging. Most of my students say they don’t want to be on screen in class. They will come on when they see a friend though. What about the kids who don’t have friends already? Without connection, life is so incredibly hard and I miss my kids. I miss being able to help them in that belonging or help them feel seen.
Now some days I literally can’t even see a student who is “present” so I have no idea how present they really are.
I am settling in with the idea that some days it is going to absolutely suck and it has. Some days you feel like a failure and ‘how the hell am I supposed to teach this if they can’t see me for real’?
Some days feel some level of good though. Some days your best student is the one who never wanted to step foot in a school building. Some days kids stay on to talk when they’re done with work and you feel like you really connected for that minute. Sometimes your kid reaches out about an assignment and you fix the problem; you saved the day. Us teachers will be living for these days this year. Sometimes the days are good, but damn you’re still tired.
I don’t have answers or solutions outside of my Algebra classwork, but I wanted to remember this.
I wanted to remember I made it through this.
I wanted to remember when it’s over that I can do anything because teaching after this will be a breeze.
I wanted to remember that I am a damn good teacher still because teaching is more than being good at NearPod or creating something that is digitally beautiful.
Teaching will always be about building relationships with kids and helping them see what they can be if they put in effort. It’s helping them see they’re still important when they don’t.
I wanted to remember that we were all in this together because being a teacher has always been about being a community of teachers and staff, too.
Dear universe, please reveal the silver linings sooner rather than later because us teachers, school staff, and our students could really use a break from all of this.
Tired but Still Trying to Smash