A letter from a middle school teacher in Texas
I don’t think I will ever forget leaving for spring break this school year‒confident we would return to our classroom a week later (because that’s what we always do) and continue our middle school journey together. However, the news coverage of the Coronavirus indicated that it was getting closer and closer to home. Initially, when they announced that school was going to be closed for two weeks, I wasn’t too upset. If you’re married to, close with, or are a teacher, you understand the amount of energy spent during the school year. We sacrifice a lot of our time to make sure that our classrooms are a safe place for students to learn & grow. Although we do this because we LOVE our kids and all of those little “light bulb” moments that come with teaching, a little rest didn’t seem all that bad. I went into those first two weeks not really thinking about the possibility of the upcoming extended closure.
As the two weeks off were coming to a close, the announcement was made that school would be close AGAIN for 2 more weeks. In my mind, I started calculating‒this means 4 weeks of lost instruction time, likely no state assessment, and things began to feel a little more “real.” This is when I truly started to realize that this virus was going to have a bigger impact than I initially thought. Not only would it affect me but also, my students. How were my kids doing? And I’m not talking about the kids that I got to see on our Zoom calls or the ones who would respond to me on Remind. I’m talking about the ones that I hadn’t heard from or couldn’t make contact with. Were they doing ok? Did they know about the free lunches they could get? Was I making enough of an effort to reach out to them? Was there something else I could do? Little did I know that the week before spring break was the last time I would see my 8th graders. The newness of online learning was fading and my mind was filled with questions. So many questions with so little answers.
The final announcement was made that we would not be returning to school and the rest of learning would take place online. Now, was I necessarily sad that we didn’t have to take our state assessment? No. But was I sad that my kids wouldn’t get the opportunity to show how much they had learned and truly feel successful at something? Absolutely. Although, it’s way more than that. It’s the missed goodbyes, the lost memories of “graduating” 8th grade, no yearbook signing parties, or sending them off to high school knowing they were prepared to tackle the “real world.” Now if you’re not a teacher, you might feel like these are trivial experiences in life. However, it’s the sense of pride & accomplishment that comes with these end of school year activities‒especially those school years indicative of change.
Through my experience with virtual learning, I will say that educators are rockstars. During this time, it has been amazing to see that social-emotional learning took a front seat to strictly following standards and testing. This pandemic called for us to shift our focus and teachers rose to the occasion. Teachers everywhere have made sure that their students know they are loved & well-cared for. It might not look the same as “normal” but I am so proud of how we’ve responded.
To my students, I want to say that I’m sorry. I wish things were different and that we were spending the last few months of school together in our classroom. I hate that you had to miss out on our normal 8th-grade events. But also, I want to tell you how proud I am of you. You worked so hard this year. I know I challenged you a lot and at times, you weren’t too happy with Ms. White 🙂 but you became world-changers this year. I know that online learning was tough and sometimes seemed impossible to do while taking care of your siblings. And you didn’t just do it for a week‒you did it for 8. You are truly an inspiration. You’ve got the power to do anything you set your mind to & I can’t wait to hear about all your accomplishments in high school. Finally, I want you to know that all of your teachers love and care about you so much. We miss you and can’t wait for you to come back and visit us soon.