Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Is the bottom somehow filled with more love than the top? I have no idea, but whatever means the most love, admiration, and gratitude, that’s where I’m sending my thanks from.
I have always appreciated teachers, but this year I thank you for so many more reasons.
I have been impressed beyond belief at what I have witnessed you do day after day, week after week.
I cannot speak for all teachers or all districts, but I can speak for the two we have had the privilege to call my daughters’ teachers this year.
As news came that remote learning was likely inevitable my oldest daughter’s teacher used their last day together to practice e-learning. She had them log on and access the sites she would likely be using in the coming weeks. My younger daughter’s teacher was making packets of papers and gathering supplies to send home with kids. You did all of this while maintaining a calm presence in front of your students. You still taught them all day, and they felt like it was a relatively normal day. That in itself is impressive.
I have no doubt that when you said good-bye to my children on that Friday that you, like them, thought it would be a few weeks of e-learning with a return to the classroom at some point in April or May. We may have all had our doubts if school would resume, but we were hopeful.
Days turned into weeks, turned into months, and here we are 31 e-learning days later, and you are still just as committed to the learning and connection with your students as you were on that last day in the classroom. You show up daily in so many unique ways: google meets, google hangout, loom videos, google classroom, google slides. You make my children laugh; you make me laugh. You have had to become comfortable with performing your silly antics in videos that you know now parents are watching too. You have had to manage pets and kids joining your “classroom” from home. You have welcomed us into your home virtually.
You don’t settle for reviewing material they have already learned. Instead, you challenge them to learn new material. You are preparing them for their next year of schooling. You are providing support to my children and to me as I attempt to help them learn. I do not call this homeschooling because I am not in charge of what they are learning. I am instead an assistant to their learning. You are the one preparing the lessons. You are the one who is spending hours and hours preparing videos and materials that coordinate with state standards. You are giving them feedback. You are trying to make sure they are the best prepared for the fall that you can. I am merely a guest teacher trying to help answer questions about the lesson for my children and ensuring they get the work done. Sure there is more assistance needed for the kindergartener than the 5th grader, but I can assure you I’m not the one figuring out all the ways to practice and review those darn sight words so that they are read effortlessly. You have helped this mom, yes-even this mom who has an elementary teaching degree myself, to handle this e-learning better. It’s not easy, and you know that. You had to worry about 25+ students (and their parents from time to time) in your classroom in March. Now you have to manage 25+ students and their parents all the time. I’m confident the number of emails, phone calls, and text messages from parents have grown exponentially. I can be sure of this, because I know I’ve emailed and texted more in the last 29 days than I have all year.
Your dedication honestly makes me tear up. I am simply amazed at what you are doing and continue to do day after day.
You used to spend entire days on your feet and likely only sat down for a quick bite of lunch. Now you spend your days tethered to a computer screen with your eyes bugging out. You used to see those aha moments when a student who struggled finally got it. You loved to see hands in the air and chuckle at the comments of kids as you conducted a read aloud. It was rewarding to you to see the connections that students made between their lives and their reading. These were the tangible rewards you got for teaching. They were the daily validation that what you were doing was working and was worth all the effort.
Those are things of the past. Now you have to read aloud a book to an empty room and just imagine what the kids might be saying at their homes as they watch the video. You have to hope the “aha” moments are still happening. You no longer get the daily validation that what you’re doing matters. I assure you it does!
You have a classroom of 25+ students, but you likely only see a fraction of those “show-up” to class every day. I’m sure that is frustrating. Please know we appreciate everything you are doing. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to do all that work and to know that some of your students who need it most aren’t there. I know you worry about those kids falling even further behind; you worry about their well-being, physically, socially, and emotionally. That’s one of the reasons you are a great teacher; you don’t stop caring at the end of the school day. You went into teaching to have an impact on the growth and development of children. You wanted to help shape children. You are still doing that from afar, even though it may be hard to see. You no longer get to see the changes in person, but they are happening, and you are still a huge part of that.
My daughters love you and they appreciate all that you are doing. They would much rather be back in school with you and their friends and learning traditionally. I am so appreciative that our district took this approach to remote learning because being able to continue to connect with you has made a huge difference. We appreciate the dynamic ways you have tried to help students stay connected, as well. A simple picture of a classmate or a video shout-out has made my daughter’s day. The daily google meet is something my 5th grader looks forward to every day. No one said you had to find a way for students to stay connected, but you realized the importance of that. You know that meeting state standards is only a part of education, and you have found creative ways to keep them connected.
I have had my moments of being outraged and sad at what was taken from our children this year. It is no one’s fault, and it was the right decision, but it’s been hard. My daughters’ had amazing teachers, seriously you’re the best, and they missed out on the best part of the year. The classes were finally in the sweet spot that the last quarter of school brings. They had created awesome classroom communities, bonds with you, their teachers, and that was taken from them. My oldest will move onto middle school, never getting the end of the year rituals that are standard for 5th graders. No final field day, no kickball game with students vs. teachers, no 5th-grade send-off, no final spring sing, no final talent show, no final walk to school with her sister. She won’t get to say good-bye to her favorite teacher, who is retiring. She won’t get a tearful good-bye with classmates and teachers and a school that she has come to truly love over the last 6 years. My kindergartener doesn’t even know what fun activities she is missing from the end of the year. She doesn’t even realize the excitement of bringing all of your school supplies home at the end of the year. She doesn’t even know what field day is and how much fun it is to rotate from station to station with your class, enjoying the sun and fun. She never got to get on those risers for the spring sing (man did we hear about those for weeks- she was so excited to be on stage like her big sister finally). She won’t get that proper good-bye with her teacher and her classmates.
There will not be that sad, nostalgic walk home on their final day as I realize this is the last time my children will ever be in the same school together. I’m certain I would have taken a picture for the scrapbook, and of course, the picture by the school sign—the same place we took a picture on their first day back in August. Living so close to the school, it’s bittersweet to hear the school bell ring in the morning and at the end of the day.
The things they missed pale in comparison to those that high school seniors are missing out on, and honestly are inconsequential in a world where tens of thousands of people are losing their lives to this horrible virus. I know this, but I also know it’s okay to be sad about the things we are missing.
You, teachers, are missing out on these magical moments too.
You never got to say a proper good-bye to your students. You missed out on all of the end of the year festivities too. No shorts, sun, and fun on field day, no fun treats, meals, and surprises in the breakroom for teacher appreciation week. No excitement for summer when the weather gets warm, and you start packing up your classroom. No final days without students when you pack up your classrooms and chit chat with colleagues. No proper good-byes to co-workers, some of whom are retiring or moving on to new jobs or schools. Instead, you had minimal time to pack up your classrooms and get supplies back to students in a very impersonal way. We all know it was the right decision and the safest decision, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult.
The end of the 2019-2020 school year is proving to be something you will never forget, and something we hope will never be repeated. Please, never for one second doubt that you are doing amazing work and that all of the work you are putting in is appreciated. You have logged countless hours on your computer, you have fought with technology, you have tried to manage your own families and graduate coursework while teaching and you made it seem effortless. I know it wasn’t effortless. I know you’re tired and managing your own feelings of grief, loss, and turmoil too, yet you keep going.
You have made my daughters’ and my entire family feel special even though they are just one of the many students you are trying to stay connected with remotely. You have helped me to stay calm and sane while I attempt to help my daughters learn even through their frustration.
Sadly, my daughters’ will not get to have you as teachers next year, and for that, I am sad, but I know you have prepared them the best you could for middle school and 1st grade. While you will not have them in class this fall you will see a new batch of eager students who will again need your love, commitment, and understanding in a way that you’ve never been asked to do before. Some students will arrive behind grade level, the result of the COVID slide + summer slide, and some will have kept up with the work and be ready to go. The gap in learning will likely be wider than ever before. Students will arrive with more social-emotional needs than ever before. You will still have large class sizes and not enough resources, but you will somehow manage to do amazing things once again. It will be a unique start to the year, but I have no doubt that you will rise to the occasion. You have proven you can do it, and I know you will again and your students next year will be lucky to have you as their teacher. You are dedicated to the students and families you serve, and you will meet each and everyone where they are at and help them to reach their highest potential.
Thank you for being amazing, selfless teachers who never gave in to mediocrity at a time when mediocrity would have been understandable and acceptable.
Take the summer to relax and take care of yourself. You will need all the energy you can find for the new school year, and when it is safe again, be on the lookout for those final good-bye hugs to be coming your way from my daughters.
A truly appreciative parent!