While we wait for the coronavirus pandemic to subside and leave us to our much-desired summer plans, we can’t help but acknowledge how incredibly fast it halted our daily routines, displaced employees, and redefined community and household roles. Especially that whole “stay at home” parent thing! Parents’ main priority has shifted from I need to keep my child alive to I have to actually educate this thing? Gone, for the moment, are the days where a parent’s only responsibilities were having to save their kid from falling down the stairs or eating that mystery object from the carpet. And with this new realization came a new respect for America’s heroes: TEACHERS.
So quickly was the torch of learning passed from teachers to parents that they had no clue what expectations would be put upon them. Likewise, little direction was given to teachers, students, or parents on how to handle something of this scale and magnitude. Yet, out of the woodwork came video chat websites, document cameras made of cardboard boxes, interactive schedules, PowerPoints, and assignments from teachers across the globe. It is in a teacher’s blood to teach and it is our duty to repay them with the best teacher gift ever: WINE.
In short, it’s been an adventure! Which brings me to the purpose of this blog…
Ten things that all teachers have done during the pandemic:
1. Drink. We’ve drank alone. We’ve drank with our pets. We’ve drank inside, outside, on a walk, in the bathtub. HELL, we have even thrown a few back during that faculty meeting with the camera turned off! Don’t pretend you hadn’t thought about it! I mean, it’s better for broadband, so really it was a selfless act. Besides, it’s good fun leaving our coworkers in total suspense of what we were actually doing behind that webcam. We have drank so much wine, that we are starting to wonder if whitening strips will be an essential part of our next essential trip to Target. Which brings us to the next…
2. Dreamt about Target. Every teacher loves a trip to The Dollar Store, however, your local dollar spot is not essential. As teachers do in so many other aspects of our lives, we are FOLLOWING RULES and SETTING POSITIVE EXAMPLES. So that’s it. No Target runs to get those fun spring erasers to use for manipulatives in your next sight word game. No way. Only toilet paper for you ma’am, if there is any to be found. We now have resorted almost exclusively to online shopping for our teacher needs. Typing in keywords like “best teacher gift” and “teachers who drink wine every night” to make ourselves feel better. But let’s face it, we have to treat ourselves. We all know there is probably a low chance of any teacher appreciation week burrito specials or flower arrangements coming our way at this point. Instead, we are all joining the Tipsy Teacher Wine club with hopes that a box will be delivered to our door and fill the void that Target, Dollar Store, etc… has left wide open.
3. Made a workspace. And then swiftly and immediately taken it down. It wasn’t jiving with the Feng Shui of the rest of your home. Or maybe you took it down because your toddler found the stash of pens and pencils way more fun than the trillions of toys they have. You may have also found yourself getting tangled in your ever-so-carefully hung string lights and realized that the lighting in that room was all wrong anyway. Or, if you are living in an area where teachers are being asked to not teach, but rather provide support to families during this time, then you totally turned that workspace into your personal “Don’t Bother Me, I’m Busy Drinking” zone.
4. Became designated “Family Teacher”. It is in our blood. We want to help. We want to learn. We want to share knowledge. And let’s face it, that was our job title before the pandemic! Whether you are microwaving the fifth lunch option for your child, practicing counting backward just for them to deny another dinosaur shaped food item, or simply talking to your dog about how to be respectful to the neighbor’s dog, you are going to be teaching. Haters gonna hate, and teachers gonna teach! Just how the world works. You’ll see children merrily playing outside and immediately wonder, “hmmm, I wonder if they finished their school work. If not, I bet I could help!”
5. Talk to children. It’s only weird if they don’t know that you are a teacher, and, well, most of them have no clue. So it is weird! Stop doing it. Stop thriving off human conversation with adolescents outside of the classroom. Let them use the wrong form of “You’re” in their “your loved” chalk message. It will be ok. Promise.
6. Answered countless “homeschooling” questions. Literally every non-teacher friend and “friend” has come out of the woodwork to ask for your advice. They suddenly find themselves stepping into the shoes of an educator. So what did you do? I mean come on, they asked for help, and as you can see above, we are total suckers for that! I had to start using voice-to-text because my recommendations: centers, games, activities, etc… were spouting out of me faster than my fingers could text.
7. Email. And then email some more. And then email again, because they got right back to you. Then email a parent regarding an email that they received the day before that is explaining an email they received from the school. Until, finally, you give up and *67 them right then and there because you are starting to go cross-eyed with all the paper trail you have created. And if you’re asking yourself what *67 is, maybe you aren’t old enough to drink Tipsy Teacher Wine yet!!
8. Become the entire front office and tech support team. Between contacting parents who seem to not know that the country is in a crisis and think that we are simply on a long spring break, to then relaying messages from families who have moved or changed their phone numbers, the responsibilities of a teacher have broadened in scope. Every teacher has received more emails about links not working, computers freezing, passwords being denied, and other technical headachesthan all previous correspondence from those parents combined! And it is the teacher’s job to fix it all. Because, let’s face it: if your tech guy at school wasn’t useless before, he sure as shit is nowhere to be found now!
9. Been thankful for this break. Finding gratitude in every day is a natural skill of a teacher. So with the closing of schools being extended longer and longer and for some until next school year, it has been an odd feeling to find gratitude in this. But it shouldn’t be something to feel guilty about. Every teacher has given themselves “the talk.” Saying things like, “at least I have this time with my family,” “at least I am still getting paid,” “this will be a nice break, I have been having a rough year,” “I can use this time to focus on me and better myself personally and professionally.” Try not to feel guilty as we enjoy some time away from the hectic school day. It is no easy task to devote ten months of your life to raising other people’s children.
10. Gotten emotional. No matter how happy you are to be at home and able to sleep in and not feel constantly rushed with the responsibilities of a classroom, nothing can cure the empty feeling teachers have in their hearts right now. They are missing the family that they have developed over the past 6 months. They are missing their comfort zone, their workspace, their professional peers. Teachers are missing their spark. Teachers are missing out on doing the thing they love the most: teaching. So when you hang up that video chat, or get that photo from a parent and find a tear sneaking its way out, just know that you are not alone. This is the fun part of the school year. The time when you have grown relationships with 25 new people and you get to have fun with them. And this is the time we may not get to have back and enjoy. Next year will be a new beginning and a fresh start. So go ahead, open that last bottle of wine you have waiting for you and remember how lucky you are to have an occupation that makes taking a break so bittersweet.