I’m a teacher without a classroom, which made me cry packing up yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve cried this week, and likely won’t be the last, now a homeschooling mom of a third and fourth grader trying to teach high school English remotely. Earlier in the week, a male friend, not a teacher, tried telling me there is never a reason to cry at work. After I cried in his face, we agreed to disagree.
All of this makes me sad–our seniors and their LAST YEAR of high school and all that means; our sophomores trying to take Drivers Ed, a rite of passage for every teenager; our own children at home, “But Mom this isn’t how Mrs. Nicoll does it” or “Mr. Bradshaw gives us more time.” Teaching is a different kind of work– our time is spent with humans, filled with hormones, personalities, challenge and energy. When tragedy like school shootings, wild fire, or natural disaster strikes the world, teachers model empathy and compassion, allowing their students to ask questions, facilitate discussion, and just let them wonder aloud. Teachers and students have shared germs from the beginning of time; but COVID-19, for obvious reasons, is different. COVID-19 left the world of public education with no choice but to keep our students home for remote learning to protect them from one another but also to flatten the curve of transmission especially for those populations more at risk. I understand all of this. I do. I really do. Honestly. I also understand we may be back in our classrooms in April; however, that feels unlikely given the state of the world.
Here’s where my struggle begins. Even as an adult, with twenty some odd years of teaching under my belt, a Masters Degree, and “can do” spirit, I could not have conceived of a time where the school year could be canceled. Literally, just two weeks ago, NH started to cancel field trips, school concerts, the kids’ senior trip to New York City. I was skiing at our local rope two with my children when the thought of closing schools first became a legitimate concern in my brain. Here we are and the world has turned on its axis beyond today’s spring equinox. COVID- 19 has stolen people’s lives, people’s jobs, people’s sense of security. And now we send our students home and tell them we can be reached by email, Google classroom, etc. We remain socially distanced from one another, but with the need to communicate and connect with friends virtually because all of this is just too much to take in.
So, I packed up my classroom yesterday as if leaving for the summer, put my crazy 16 plants in the car as the deep cleaning alone could have killed them, straightened up the desks, tidied my own, and tried to decide which were the most important resources to have at home for my kitchen table office. Yet, I could not shake the feeling that I was being fired or changing schools. I can’t imagine how my students are feeling– how students are feeling across all these empty classrooms of the world, empty seats, silent pencil sharpeners, quiet chalkboards in my case or maybe smart boards in yours. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, student, or parent, these are challenging times in education. What I want you to know– what I want to reassure you of as we navigate these homeschooling waters, is that we are in this together, and we always have been. I’m on the other end of those emails and probably constant Google classroom notifications. A ninth grader emails me, “Mrs. Krill, isn’t this crazy?” Five simple words that say far more than she is able to articulate in the moment. I tell her these are unprecedented times and she should enjoy spending time with her family, maybe getting lost in a book, journaling about her life as she passes the days beyond our classrooms, taking a walk, writing real letters and mailing them. Know that you are missed in classrooms throughout the world. Know that my life as a mom is harder than being at school with a bunch of teenagers. Teenagers sometimes are given a bad rap, but here in the mountains, north of pretty much everywhere, they grow pretty awesome– thoughtful, compassionate, nature-loving, and complex individuals.
So use your words. Write to your teachers when you need us. We have spent our entire careers in education needing to be needed– this still exists even when the classrooms disappear for a little while. We are here. We are listening. We will help one another to get through this challenge too.
Thinking of students everywhere, parents, administrators, and teachers on this first day of Spring and always,
Ms. Heather Ehrman Krill