I don’t know how you do it. With style, grace, and above all, leadership. Despite being a pawn in a political game, somehow you manage to keep your eyes focused on what matters, your students.
Thank you for being willing to make this gigantic pivot. Not a toe and heel kind of pivot, like a stepped on a Lego in the dark and you’re just trying not to scream and scare the children kind of pivot. Regardless of your own technological comfort, you’re facing the challenge. Head on.
Thank you for being willing to carve out a piece of your home to set up a virtual classroom. It may seem like a small sacrifice, but there is no way to understand what that required of you. For being thoughtful of how shadows impede your face, you even bought one of those fancy ring lights so that your kids could see your smile.
Thank you for working so hard, all those extra hours, to create engaging and rigorous lessons that still provide differentiation for your exceptional students. Thank you for figuring out how to balance screen time with off screen time because you know that kids shouldn’t look at a screen for that long. Yet you never leave. You stay on the screen the whole time. Working with students one-on-one, answering questions, and encouraging your kids. You are after all, the teacher, the counseling department, the curriculum department, and tech support. All assignments are turned in electronically for your review. So, you spend more hours in front of your computer, giving grades and providing feedback for your students to grow from and celebrate in. By the end of the day, your eyes hurt and your head aches, but you know you’re going to be back in front of the screen tomorrow. With your light on. Smiling.
Thank you for empathizing with the working parents of your classroom. Of course you get it! You too have children. You too are balancing working full time and helping to support your own children with this new uncharted world that is online learning. The struggle, you know, is real. When parents lament of the struggles of trying to manage work either at home or in person, but still having children at home, you can see your own complexion in their concern. Though you understand, you also know that your own children have caring and hard working teachers on their devices who are supporting your children as much as you are supporting your students. You can take comfort knowing there are others like you, working hard to propel students towards their potential.
Thank you for setting an example. You asked leadership, at both the district and state levels, to provide you with benchmarks for a return to learning, and you got it. Because, it is clear how desperately you too want to return to in person learning. While some do not want to use those benchmarks as a rubric for a safe return to schools, you hold your ground. Although some even suggest you shouldn’t be paid until you are inside a building, you still plan for instruction. You take solace knowing that you still have another job, or two, that you could still figure out how to make ends meet should the ugly head of politics hang up on your heart’s calling.
To my fellow teachers, ultimately this letter is to remind you that when you feel overwhelmed, under appreciated, scared, frustrated, ecstatic, or thrilled, you are not alone. This era of online learning is frightening, in part because we all know that this academic year, these students, matter. Silence the noise, ignore the criticisms, and teach. You have to teach different, but kids will still hear your heart every time you remind them to click here, or there, or everywhere! You’ve got this!
A Grateful Heart