Processing the Change

I am a woman who wears many hats. First and foremost, I am a child of God and a follower of Christ. He matched me with my soulmate and made me a (soon-to-be) wife. He trusted me to become a mother to my beautiful daughter. He made me a bridge between people looking to change their health and fitness and the solutions to do so. He also trusted me to become a teacher to 28 crazy, loving third graders.

Out of all those hats that I wear, there is ONE that has been turned backwards…teaching. With all that is going on in the world and the fact that COVID-19 has changed the face of education currently, I am learning to process it all, make a plan, and execute it. It’s the processing part that I’m still stuck in.

You see, when I began my teaching journey I was older than the typical teacher starting out. After many career changes, I finally decided to go back to school at the age of 27 and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree at 29, when I immediately got a job teaching in the school where I did my student teaching. What a blessing that was! Because of this, I have a huge attachment not only to all the students that I have had, but to my coworkers who quickly became friends.

Last year I had such a great group of kids that I asked my principal if I could move up from second grade to third grade with them…and she said “YES!” Fast forward to this school year and you can imagine how close we have all grown. Even the new students that I got this year quickly became a part of our classroom family. We laugh, joke, learn, love, and work together. We truly are a family.

When the pandemic began I never imagined that I would not get to see my students again after leaving that Thursday, March 13th. I remember being tired at the end of the day and ready to sit down and send the kids home. I know I gave most of my students hugs goodbye, but I’m sure there were some that I simply waved to as they walked out the door. Had I’d known that would be the last time I’d see them this school year, I would have squeezed them a little harder and made sure that each kid left knowing just how much they mean to me. I know they know it, but I wish I had shown it more that day.

We started out with just one week of virtual learning. That quickly became two weeks. Right now we are wrapping up “spring break” week but two days ago we got the word that all Georgia schools were officially closed for rest of the school year. We will be virtually learning and teaching until the end of May. When I got the news I didn’t know how to feel. One part of me liked the fact that I won’t have to commute 1.5+ hours round trip each day (Atlanta traffic ain’t no joke!). But most of me felt sadness, frustration, and regret. Sad that I cannot do what I love in the way that I love. Frustrated that more than a handful of my students do not have internet access and will basically not get these last 7 weeks of content. Regret that I did not give each one of them a tighter hug and words of comfort.

Teachers become so emotionally invested in their students’ future, in their personal and academic growth. They are not just a body filling up space in a classroom. They are unique individuals who I learn from daily. They inspire me, motive me, push me to be my best. They tell me my drawings are awesome even when they aren’t. They help me remember all the things I need to do. They tell me jokes and make me laugh. They can’t wait until the bell rings at the end of the day to tell me all the little things inside their heads. They hug me for no reason. They see when I’m tired and frustrated and come give me a pat on the back and tell me it’s okay. I may have one biological child, but I really have 28 more children, too.

At first I could not process the school closures although I knew it was coming. I finally allowed myself to embrace the feelings that I was having, including shedding some tears. Change is scary when it is suddenly forced upon you but a close friend of mine reminded me that it is okay to feel what I feel, acknowledge it, and then turn it over to God. God is my ultimate comforter and the source of my strength. He reminds me daily that while I am definitely not in control of the situations swirling around me, I am in control of how I approach and handle them.

I’m sure people are conjuring up their ideas of what us teachers will be doing for the rest of the school year…sleeping in, sitting around in PJs, lazily checking student work online and posting things to keep them busy. Guess what? We aren’t. We are still expected to have “school hours”, participate in Zoom meetings throughout the week, and of course provide ENRICHING and RELEVANT lessons and activities for the kids to do at home all with short notice. And I would expect nothing less. This is not a vacation, it’s just a different way of teaching. I’m learning to roll with the punches and embrace the changes that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Who knows what the future holds, but one thing I do know is that I’ll continue to show up every day for my students. I’ll host virtual meetings so I can see their smiling faces and read them stories. I’ll continue to email back and forth with families so that they can best help their child at home. I will wake up every day smiling that I am still healthy and so is my family. And I…no, WE, will all get through this.

If you are a teacher looking for resources for your students, please check out my TpT page. I am having a sale in my store from 4/4-4/7 with everything 20% off and many of my resources are FREE. We are in this together and together we will build each other up and support one another through this time of change.

Check out my TpT store HERE!

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