If you're a teacher, you know that February to March is hands down one of the most challenging stretches of the school year. Kids are rambunctious as they wait for Spring and Summer to arrive, educational material becomes more complex (which means, more frustrating and challenging for students to learn), and state testing commences. If your lucky, you'll get a spring break some time during those two months that will give you enough of a breather to continue the rest of the year with a positive and motivated mindset.
Undeniably so, I was at that point. I was completely, without a doubt, 100% ready for Spring break. This year, our spring break was 3 days instead of 2, so let me tell you, I was chalking that up for a win. As spring break commenced, kids excitedly went home for their break, teachers left their laptops and materials at school in an attempt to leave work at work, and everyone went about their way excited to have time for themselves!
Then COVID-19 made its presence in the United States and nearly every school district in the nation began closing schools - it's history in the making, folks! I LOVE my job; but, I want to be transparent: the thought of having a few additional days home due to the virus and the protection everyone's well-being didn't sound like the worst thing in the world.
That is...until they cancelled school indefinitely!
I'd like to say that it's nice having the remainder of the year to work from home, to have bathroom breaks as I please, to drink my coffee when it's hot, and to have an uninterrupted lunch. But, as I reflect on all of the chaos that goes on in my normal day; the thought of not having it leaves my heart feeling empty and lonesome during this nationwide quarantine.
We left our schools anticipating returning in 5 short days. What we got was entirely different: our students didn't get to pack up their belongings or say good bye to their classmates, our staff didn't get to give tight squeezes to all of the amazing little people they care so deeply about, and our teachers didn't get a chance to comfort their kiddos and let them know that everything would be ok!
As a behavioral special education teacher, my heart just hurts for my students. You see, I work with the same students year after year. I have watched them learn, grow, and mature throughout challenging times. Our classroom has been their home away from home and their safe space when they are escalated and struggling to cope. The thought of not getting to provide that for each and every one of my students leaves me aching for this national crisis to end more than ever.
As we packed up our students belongings and prepped their learning materials for the weeks to come, we also took time to make posters, decorate windows, and make uplifting videos to help support our students in anyway that we could. It was a way to raise our spirits (and hopefully our students' and their families' spirits) as we trudged through the empty hallways and classrooms prepping to leave the school for the remainder of the year!
The day finally came, and with a very systematic approach, we delivered bags one-by-one to our students' families as they pulled into our school parking lot. Students and family members were asked to stay in the car as staff members delivered bags to the sidewalk closest to them. Students were waving, crying, and asking to get out and hug their teachers. Parents were attempting to comfort their children, crying as they watched their children cry, and thanking us for all that we have done to help their children be successful in school. It was clear that our students & their families were more appreciative than ever before; and that sincerity left us experiencing the most heart-warming, humbling, and tear-jerking day in our teaching careers.
As silly as this may sound, I am grieving. I have felt so many emotions in this short amount of time that I feel like every single "unthinkable" from our Superflex Social Skills curriculum is wrecking havoc in my brain. I am feeling lost, as I will not get to spend time with, learn with, or problem solve with my students. I am feeling lonesome because I don't get to share their excitement, love, and smiles on a daily basis. I am feeling scared because I fear that my students may experience neglect, abuse, or more uncertainty in their life and I can't be there to help support them. I am feeling neglected of the time that I needed to continually help my students work towards achieving their IEP goals. But, above all, I am feeling like a huge piece of my heart is missing.
We are teachers. Despite how challenging, draining, and stressful our jobs may be, we are meant to be in our classrooms and with our students. If you take away our classroom and our students, we are left empty. We are left patiently waiting to be called back to the one place that we are, without a doubt, called to be.
I am hoping that call comes sooner than we think!
A heart broken teacher