“I’m not sure Americans realize how buried we are …”
One of the podcasts I listen to irregularly is “The Daily.” It’s a great podcast and Michael Barbaro does amazing work. But it has gotten to a point, for me, not the podcast, that I’m reading enough about the topics they usually address, and sometimes enough is enough.
But the headline— “This Covid Surge Feels Different” —of the episode this piece was inspired by grabbed my attention and here we are. To be clear, the episode tells the stories of doctors and hospitals around the country and just how swamped they are. It was sobering.
I’m a teacher. If you’re reading me, you’ve probably picked up on that by now. And Jesus, if these words aren’t God’s honest reality in a majority of classrooms right now, I don’t what’s real and what’s not.
I say this as an educator who signed up knowing what the job is. I knew it was going to be time-consuming and a ton of work, but I was also someone who knew and believed the work was worth it. It was for a higher calling. It made a difference. I knew I’d be underpaid. To be honest, I was kind of used to that having been a journalist prior to becoming a teacher. And to be even more honest, it was kind of a badge of pride to me for a few demented years. I’m working at home after having stayed at school for an extra two hours and then eating dinner and then working for a couple more hours.
But just like in many areas of American life, the pandemic is just crushing many educators. We went from being heroes sent from the heavens in the early stages of the hysteria to, just a couple of months later, lazy, no-good, don’t-want-to-work layabouts when the next school year began.
When the 2020–21 year began, in addition to teaching however we had been teaching, some of us were teaching virtually. Not sure if you’ve ever been on a Zoom for eight hours solid with a bunch of black boxes staring back at you. When you’re used to any level of interaction when you teach, Zoom education becomes soul-crushing.
And when we did return in 2021–22, on top of the normal amount of (over) work, we were greeted with these new, awesome things to deal with:
Kids who don’t do work when given time, then turn it in (I’ve heard stories of several months, but often see several weeks in my classes) late and want full credit. I’m all for grace and understanding that some kids have needed during the pandemic, but there’s a point.
Parents who insist their angel does no wrong (apologies, this isn’t new, it’s just become WAY more frequent).
Covering a class during your plan hour. Every once in a while is fine. Two weeks ago, I gave up my plan hour three different days in a four-day week. Not having time to grade, plan, or exhale takes a toll.
Continued professional development. As the line from “Trainspotting” goes, what a total fucking misnomer.
Kids who evidently, after two years, have not learned how to wear a mask properly.
Parents who send their kid to school coughing, with runny noses. Parents who want teachers to make sure their kid wears a mask, even though it’s only recommended. Parents who want teachers to make sure their kid is seated by only kids wearing a mask. Parents who want to make sure their kid isn’t wearing a mask.
Increased censorship of books and the banning of CRT, something that only one school district in Missouri has admitted to this concept being included anywhere in its curriculum. Not only is this added mental stress, but having to serve on committees and read materials to explore whether these things should or shouldn’t be included is a huge weight.
I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting. I’m sure. The point is, a teacher’s job is already difficult enough. Teaching one student something is hard work and teaching a class of 20 is exponentially moreso.
For some of these things, administrators need to speak with their teachers more and prioritize what’s most important and what can wait until … later. For parents, just a bit of realization that we’re struggling to stay afloat and a tiny bit of the grace we’ve been asked to give your students would help more than you know. And to society at large, teachers aren’t trying to brainwash your kids into anything unless it’s turning work in on time, giving their best effort, using the time we give them to do work wisely and being a good person who asks for help when they need it and gives help when it’s needed by others.
To my teachers reading this, I feel you. I’m just hanging on as well. I’m trying to take solace in the kids and the content. I’m trying to let them have more fun. Every Friday, my yearbook staff starts the hour off with a rave (see the photo at the top of the page) during passing period before class starts. They listen to some crappy Justin Bieber song. It makes their day, releases some stress and honestly, just seeing them having fun gives me just a few minutes to remember why I got into this field in the first place. See if you can’t find your rave, a way to give you just a small reminder of why you wanted to do this in the first place.