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A School Year Like No Other

Author: Kelly Shoemaker

If you don’t love children, you don’t become a teacher, period. To nurture, encourage, and challenge those little nuggets that walk into your classroom for 180 days of ups and downs each year is both a calling and a passion. To meet those precious nuggets virtually on the first day of school, not knowing when, or if, in-person learning will happen this school year is a heartbreak that has weighed heavily on me for the past four days of teaching from a computer screen. I don’t like it, but I can do it. I can do it because no less than one hundred and sixty-six 7th grade students are counting on me to not let them down, and I won’t. I will show up with a smile on my face and give them the best virtual history lesson I can. I will use all the technology tools that our middle school team has fine-tuned in previous years and I will learn new tricks that can make them better. I can, and I will.

If you are a parent, you too face unprecedented challenges as we begin a school year like no other. As a mother of a 10th and 12th grader, I miss the many sporting events that would normally occupy my afternoons and evenings. I miss the camaraderie of the parents who have become our friends in this one high school town of ours. I miss the smile after a memorable play that inevitably comes my way across the pool, court, or field. More so, my heart breaks for parents of younger children who cannot possibly have kindergarten or first grade experiences as they are meant to have. These are challenges that I do not face, but my teaching partner does as she navigates her own virtual teaching day in addition to being on hand for two young sons at home in their own virtual classrooms. Please know that teachers across this country salute you. We need your support and recognize the impossible task you have been given. Let us know how we can better support you. Communication is key. Breaks are necessary. Teachers must show grace upon grace for those who need it. If you are fortunate enough to know retired teachers or unemployed substitute teachers, reach out to them. It could be that they are more than willing to volunteer their time to help your child with that common core math problem, art project, or give much needed facetime to enrich learning now.

If adulating has become a thing of the past, what to do? I can only say that getting outside has saved me. It’s true that nature makes us happy. If I can hike with a friend or small group of friends it lifts my spirits like nothing else. An impromptu picnic at a local park, safely distanced, but able to see one another in person and LAUGH has been a life line, too. I love how people all over are finding creative and simple ways to get together safely and to really savor it.

Finally, if you are a student, you deserve a standing ovation. You have shown up, on time, in countless Zoom meetings in the past five days. You have demonstrated etiquette beyond your years to make the virtual classroom a good place to be. You have waved to your classmates who would much rather see you in person, with a smile on your face. You have politely emailed your teachers with questions and always manage to say, “Thank you.” You are amazing. You are priceless. There is a reason people say, “This too shall pass;” because it will. In the meantime, keep at it. Take breaks when you know you need to. Try your best to let others know when you are struggling. It’s not easy, but you are more than you think you are. You are the reason we all show up, and you are loved.

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