2022 has been one hell of a year.
Really, everything since March 13, 2020 has been one hell of a time.
That’s when the grieving began. It’s been compounding exponentially ever since.
We grieve time lost. When everything just stopped…suddenly home was safest so we stayed there as much as we could. We lost time with loved ones, time to grow and change, time to find out who we are.
We grieve people lost to a virus no one knew or understood how to control. And those lost once some understanding was attained too.
We grieved seeing full faces, smiles, smirks, and hearing people speak clearly, unmuffled by layers of cotton and medical grade material. We still grieve missed milestones like kid-faces becoming young adult faces, schmutz appearing between noses and lips, grown-up teeth arriving, baby teeth lost, and braces coming and going. And we grieve missed facial expressions that would have conveyed what we really meant…not misinterpretations.
We grieve being able to do our jobs the way we knew how to do them–the way we’d always done them. The routines we had perfected…the systems that worked. Some of us were just coming into our own as educators; we had some stuff figured out and had plans for how to make other stuff better.
We grieve friendships fractured or ended altogether because of different beliefs, different politics, and different ways of wanting to see a crisis handled. We grieve family relationships that will be forever changed by words and actions over the past several years…
My heart is heavy (yes, again) because so much of the last several months (read: years) is hitting me like hail on a roof that desperately needs replacing with every question about what the plans are for this year.
There’s a teacher availability crisis if you hadn’t heard. More are leaving the profession than entering. All of the reasons are valid ones. Family needs change. Professional goals change. Pandemic stress won. Feeling unappreciated, overworked, and disrespected by people inside and outside of education is real. Seems every other article I read lately is either criticism of those who choose to stay to do this Big Work or criticism of those choosing to do something different. Either way, the article, opinion piece, or podcast is almost always about how educators failed the kids, the parents, and society as a whole because reasons and how administrators at every level failed everyone altogether. It takes a toll and makes you doubt what you believed you were called to do.
We’re short teachers this year, and it’s likely that both me and my director will be teaching in addition to doing our actual jobs with support from an army of brilliant humans who are willing to jump in and take over parts of our brains until the right people arrive. And I’m grieving my office-with-a-window job too. I had plans… It’s no one’s fault, of course. I’m not angry…just sad. Cloning is still not an option, unfortunately–though I hear they’re getting closer. Probably won’t be done and foolproof soon enough to be useful.
I have said I miss teaching. I do miss teaching. I miss kids and creating a learning community together. I miss learning alongside them and heading down rabbit holes because we can. I miss ah-ha moments and their increased confidence showing through when they help someone else with something that was hard for them a few weeks ago. I miss the moments shared among us, the goofy jokes, the trust built over time, growing their self-advocacy skills, and the street cred provided for me by older siblings. I am looking forward to the team-level collaboration, the ideas crafted together, and learning alongside kids, colleagues, and families though–that’s a piece of “teacher” life that looks very different in my office-with-a-window job.
Someone asked why I’m not “setting up my classroom.” I’m not setting up the classroom because it’s not needed yet–the people who will do the work to make it a home aren’t in yet–they don’t come for another couple of weeks and the tables and chairs are there already. I need pencils (the good expensive ones) and paper. Basic supplies. The kids will provide the decoration, the organization, and the community. It’s not my classroom. It’s theirs. There are certain things that I’ll need to stay sane–sharpies, sticky notes, coffee…and manilla envelopes for kid-work collection otherwise I’ll lose things. The kids will make it what it needs to be when they arrive.
While I hope to find a teacher to join that community of learners and go with them on their journey this year soon, I grieve letting go of them too. The last time I said goodbye to a group of kids it broke my heart…and at least one kid in the process.
Yes, there is grief right now, compartmentalized appropriately, and a cascade of tears waiting for one rock to move enough for the dam to break. Not sure how much longer it’ll hold, but for now it’s ok. The tall poppies are safe.