It’s okay to be upset for yourselves too.
It took me a while to write those words. Even longer to post them here. I truly believe teaching is an inherently selfless job. You give your heart and soul to make the lives of others better. So, to think of yourself suddenly takes quite the switch in perspective, but here we are.
As schools are closing for extended periods of time, and there is an ever-growing list of schools closing for the year, it is only natural for teachers to feel completely terrible for their students. We have seniors missing prom and graduation and kindergartners missing those first fundamental building blocks for the love of learning. Meanwhile, kids are missing their last year of elementary school, middle school, their best year yet, their favorite teacher, or that incredible field trip that they won’t get back. Our hearts break for these students, how do we say, “It’s okay” when it’s not? We know that, and that’s why teachers are working harder than ever to make magic happen from home.
Yet at the end of the day, it still hurts. Seemingly overnight you lost a lot too, and that hurt, and sadness is real.
If you haven’t heard it yet, I’m sorry. I am sorry if you lost your morning hello with the secretary as you check your mailbox. The smile that starts your day with a little sunshine. That you are missing walking to your classroom and having a casual “Good morning, how are you?” with your coworkers as you walk by. When you turn on the lights and set your things down and have a moment of silence and calm before the day ensues. That you won’t be able to open the door to your neighbor to chat about the crazy thing your kid did, that recipe you tried, or to complain that the grading never ends. That you can’t chat at recess duty with other teachers or watch that ‘cool trick’ a kid is dying for you to see. That you can’t talk with the custodian as he comes in and sweeps up your room, not judging your messy hair and tired eyes from the day.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s okay to be mad. Mad that your plants were left to die in your classroom. Mad that this is your last year working with your teacher bestie. That your year suddenly came to a halt. That those supplies you bought for a lesson on Monday are going to waste. That you have been working on that project all year and it was put to a stop. That the bond you had with your para or team was unmatched and changes will be coming in the next year. That you had your favorite class, or your first class, and that your time was cut short. Those feelings are real.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s okay to feel like you can’t handle this. Like you’re struggling to keep your house up and running, kids learning, and providing quality instruction to your students. Like you can’t do it all. Like you’re making mistake after mistake. Like there is WAY too many emails. Like it is an accomplishment if you change from your pajamas. Like you are successful if you washed your hair.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s okay to feel like this isn’t what you signed up for. To feel like you’re not good with technology. To be annoyed that this is how you are teaching now. To feel frustrated because teaching via zoom feels impossible. To feel that suddenly your home is exposed to students. If you wanted to work with kids, not across from a screen.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s okay to be sad. Sad that you missed field day. Your favorite read aloud. Your favorite lesson. That fun end of the year tradition that you do. To miss the moments that make you as a teacher happy.
What I’m getting at here is that of course you are sad for your students, for your past students, and for your future students. I think that comes natural to us all. Just remember it’s okay to be sad, upset, angry, annoyed, hurt for yourself too. While we need to do what makes sense for our schools and communities, there is a loss, a pain, and a hurt for you too that’s all too real. So please, cut yourself some slack, take a deep breath, and remember it’s okay to have these feelings.
Your also hurting teacher friend