We’re only half-way through the year and we’re tired.
I retired from teaching two years ago, but this September, when our school division decided to offer virtual classes four days before school opened, I offered to be one of the teachers and they accepted.
With nearly thirty years teaching experience, I figured I had something to offer and the first four months have gone well. Learning new technology, presenting lessons in a different way and connecting with a great group of students.
But this week kicked my butt!
Our second week back after Christmas break and I see the difference.
At the end of each day, my jaw ached from clenching my teeth as students were late for class, didn’t follow directions and talked over each other in our zoom meetings. It took everything I had to keep the tenuous hold on my patience. Like most teachers, when things aren’t going well we take it personally. Are the students bored? Am I not explaining directions clearly? What is going on? As each day went on, I became more and more discouraged. I couldn’t figure out what was different. Until last night.
My epiphany came while sleeping, as they often do, and the pieces of the puzzle came together. Maybe it’s not me or my lessons, but what my students and their families are going through.
The first sign things were changing was when the students who consistently kept their cameras on started shutting them off. It quickly became clear it was because of what was going on around them: younger siblings in the room with them, others crying outside the door wanting to come in and play and parents talking close by. Creating a learning environment in their home isn’t the first priority for parents. And for good reason.
In the last week, one girl has told me that her family doesn’t have enough money for food. When asked if they needed help, she replied “no”. Another student’s mom is about to have a baby and her Grandma and Grandpa have arrived from Mexico to help out. Another family has two students doing virtual learning and mom working from home, all the same room. Families are doing the best they can.
And the icing on the cake, we had a snow/wind storm in the middle of the week and a twelve hour power outage. One family seeing significant damage to their farm.
Having finally sorted all this out, I realized one thing. I need to give my students, parents and myself empathy and compassion. We’re tired. Kids are tired. Parents are tired. I’m tired. We all need a little grace.