An open letter to teachers

It’s been a year like no other; 12 (soon to be 13, and then 14, and then 15) months we’ll never forget. No matter the type of person or teacher we were just one year ago, we’re different. Education is, too.

Coronavirus has taken away our colleagues, some forever. It has challenged us to rethink how we teach, and it certainly has made us rethink what we thought we knew about our students. It has brought out feelings and beliefs in some of our colleagues that have fractured friendships, possibly forever.

Some of us have walked away from the classroom because of coronavirus, and we’ll never return. Whether because of the pressure of our health (or of someone in our family) or the shortsightedness of some administrator, we’re gone. Our students will never learn from us, and that’s yet one more pain we must endure in the near future.

We’re told the fall ought to be a return to “normal,” but some of us won’t be in just a few months. We’ll see that spot in the classroom where a favorite student once sat. We’ll hear someone cough, and we’ll momentarily freeze. We’ll think about that former colleague who is no longer our lunch partner.

That might be what the fall looks like, but right now we have spring.

Spring reminds us of renewal, and this spring we can think about soon enjoying life again. In the short term, we won’t easily dismiss the messages, the warnings and the fears of the past year now that the vaccine rollout is happening. In fact, with the variants of coronavirus that continue to infect many people, the virus still represents a lethal threat.

But we are resilient. We are strong. We may still shed some tears, and we may still feel those pangs of anxiety, but, oh, yes, we are strong! We will start rebuilding what has been destroyed over the past year. We won’t cut corners. We won’t give our students anything less than our best.

We’ll need some help along the way. Our families, our friends, our students, our colleagues and our bosses must be our allies as we strengthen the foundation underneath ourselves and our careers. The good ones will support us. We’ll harness the best of ourselves and of them and we will remember those feelings about teaching that have been smothered over the past year.

We will thrive, some sooner than others. We will live again, some quicker than others. We will love what we do again, and maybe even more than we did before.

Coronavirus has been hell. But it will not beat our spirit. Never.

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