“Don’t know what you got till it’s gone
Don’t know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It’s just this song
And it ain’t easy to get back
Takes so long…”
These lyrics from Cinderella’s 1988 power ballad are on repeat in the tape deck of my mind. They ring true on so many levels.
In emails from students and parents:
Maddie: “Mrs. Fisher, I never thought I’d say this, but I miss school.”
Isaac: “When are we going back to school? All this online stuff is stressful and confusing and it’s so much better at school.”
Garrett’s mom: “We just now got a computer up and running as of April 5. I see he has a lot to catch up on.”
I asked my twelve-year-old son to sort some school papers for recycling or the memory book. He said, “I want to throw it all away because it reminds me of school. I never want to remember this year.” His English assignment is to create a time capsule of COVID-19; he works on it against his will.
In broken promises:
Spring sports, prom, Senior Picnic, graduation, deadlines, expectations.
In hard feelings balanced with grace:
Fact: Only 6% of my seniors returned work last week.
Fact: 58% of my honors kids watched my most recent YouTube tutorial.
Conclusion: I have been spitting into the wind, but that’s ok too.
Getting back, as Cinderella lamented, takes so long. And apparently it involves hard feelings, suspicious glances, blasts of judgment, and fear.
II. In Praise of the Idealized Dead
It speaks volumes, our grief.
We hope to return to imperfect schools—the thermostats unpredictable, the hot water in the staffroom not quite hot—in order to work with imperfect people—who sometimes choose to “reply all” instead of “reply” and sometimes leave the copier jammed—and to fill our classrooms with smaller (or at least younger) imperfect humans who love their phones unconditionally and sass back and sometimes want to sleep in class.
Those 2019-2020 days were the good times:
Not because every lesson was great or every discussion was exciting;
Not because there was never any pushback or argument;
Not because every administrative decision was lauded;
Not because every student was engaged;
Not because we met every need or always maintained the productive struggle;
But because we were there.
We were doing our best, teacher friends.
We were doing all the things humans do in community: laughing, working, trying, failing, getting frustrated, learning, and teaching.
We saw the bigger picture every day. Back then, we knew that school is more than subjects and letter grades. We knew that school is about teaching younger humans to be better humans, and in the process, becoming better humans ourselves.
This is hard, this loss. Those are my kids, warts and all. I am their teacher, no matter what. And I want to be back with them. I am doing all the work and having none of the fun. No one is laughing at my jokes, even though I am pretty darn funny. Also, back then, I told more jokes.
And as time passes, as it is wont to do, the edges will soften and we will look back—maybe not fondly, but more judiciously—and the camaraderie and the work to come will taste sweeter.
So here’s to the 2019-2020 school year, improved with a backward glance.
I am experiencing a turning back, a turning forward, a change in energy. Maybe you are too, teacher-friend.
The email messages are decreasing in proportion to the increasing length of daylight.
There is a little burrow of baby bunnies in my backyard. I wrote a little story for a micro-fiction contest. I tried my hand at macaroons and made jelly out of violets. The rain will be good for my garden. The peonies will bloom soon. I’m still plugging away at the complete works of Shakespeare.
I plan to inventory my classroom library. I plan to do some professional reading, some non-professional reading, and some writing. I plan to lay out a new prep for the new school year, and figure out how not to spend so much time grading writing. I plan to get fresh air and exercise every day. I plan to hang out with my children, while I have them here with me. I plan to hug my parents. I plan to work toward goals in a focused way, but still be open to change.
We will go back into our classrooms again, one day, and we will continue to do the important and meaningful work of valuing all of our students, face-to-face and behind the screens.
May you pause to create a list of hopes and plans, a mixture of work and life, that will lead you forward.
Courage, dear heart.
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Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She wishes you light and courage. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher in the middle of a global crisis and doing her best with seniors in co-teaches and dual-credit classes, and honors-level sophomores. When she’s not planning her next career as a YouTuber, you can find her calling “Hello!” to strangers, tree bathing in the woods with her kids, or writing in drips and drabs. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin