Simple words, potent tonic

It’s been a rough go as an educator these past couple years, last year definitely the most trying, difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking year of my career. The 21–22 school year has been better, but still filled with its overly fair share of struggles.

Going back into the classroom in a district that was coming back largely in person, I was terrified to return to Room 139. It was hard to view the students who’d be entering my classroom as little other than virus factories, especially those who were unable to properly wear a mask. Vaccines wouldn’t be available until March.

And everything was harder. Keeping kids in a seating chart. Making sure they’re wearing their masks (and properly). Who was sniffling? Coughing? How long were they next to that kid? How long was I? Was it even close to 15 minutes?

Getting work from many students was — and continues to be— a chore of a significantly harder degree than it was pre-pandemic. The most insidious effect of Zoom teaching on education has been the number of kids who just said “fuck it” when it came to turning in work online and have not been able to move themselves out of that mindset. What was something that was pretty much a minor annoyance with a student or two per class has gone to something much more widespread.

It was in this frame of mind that I went into this past weekend. Tired, fed up, and then tired and fed up.

I’ve known plenty of teachers and read plenty of stories about people looking to leave education lately. I saw a story yesterday saying that 50 percent of new teachers in Texas left the field after just one year.

A large part of this may have to do with appreciation. I’m not saying teachers need to have sunshine blown up their asses each day. But the occasional kind, out-of-the-blue email or note from a parent or student has the healing power of Mr. Miyagi before the final round of the All Valley Tournament. Probably more so. Ask any teacher.

For at least the last five years, my publications students have always taken part in a teacher appreciation project. I’ve been blessed to be recognized by my students most years for this, along with a lot of other great educators in my building. They’re printed out on my wall, next to my desk.

However, I realized this weekend, after getting a couple of nice emails from some former student's parents this weekend (which I wrote about on Facebook), that I’m not very good at practicing what I preach regarding this.

So, I’m putting down in writing my resolve to reach out to my son and daughter’s teachers a bit more frequently, and not simply because I have a question about an assignment or am worried about a grade. Those are the required, expected parts of being the parent of Noah and Sydney. I’m going to resolve to send one of their teachers a nice email about what my children have said about their class and provide just a bit of sunshine into the inbox every two weeks. There’s enough time in the school year to let me get to all of their teachers and coaches.

Because since I know how wonderful I feel when I get these types of emails, why wouldn’t I be writing these emails? If you read my previous piece on teaching being just a job now … it was a lament, in parts. I want my job to feel like a calling again. If I can help other educators feel that way, I’m not doing my job as a teacher if I’m not trying to lift them up.

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