Dear Fellow Teachers,
Ah, summertime. Warmer weather, longer days, and for students and teachers alike, the end of a school year. For many of us, we look forward to resting, relaxing, and taking care of those home improvement chores we put on the back burner at the end of last summer. But many teachers also reflect and take inventory of the school year. We think about what was, what could have been, and what we hope will come in the fall. I shared some of my own reflections on Twitter recently. As I prepare to take a much-needed self-care break from Twitter, I want to expand on the thoughts from that thread with all of you here.
Let's Be Honest About This School Year
I know for so many of you, this year sucked. You struggled to connect with students. The trauma of the past two years bled over into your classroom, and you had more incidents of students being reactionary than ever before. Or maybe your administrative team didn't support you, and you felt isolated for not following the party line. Or the oppressive systems that plague society darkened your doorstep, and you had to defend teaching justice, empathy, and equity. Perhaps COVID-19 attacked your family or school community like it did mine, taking a great science teacher far too soon. Whatever the reason, this year was awful. So for you, I am holding space and telling you I see you and hope for better days.
If you hit your stride and had one of the best years of your career, that's awesome! I hope the momentum stays with you next school year and beyond. For me, it was a mix. There were awesome highs and devastating lows. I was a Teacher of the Year finalist at my school. I was also interviewed for USA Today and different teacher podcasts. On top of that, several students told me I made learning Spanish feel effortless.
This was also the year I had students say to my face, "No one's even paying attention to you," and I "had favorites." Many students told me my classroom was their safe space, but professionally I felt my least effective in a LONG TIME. Still, my students taught me, and I taught them. I'm pondering the lessons from this roller coaster called the "21-22 school year," and as I packed up my room for the summer, I am putting this year away. But before I do…
Some Final Thank Yous and Reminders
If you're walking away from teaching, I thank you for the time you gave and wish you well in the future. If you're retiring, congratulations, and enjoy the rest. If you're staying, take this summer to rest, live, recuperate and love. Find community, bandage the wounds of this year, so they don't bleed into the next. It's a great job, but it's a job and one that will replace you (even in a shortage like this).
If you speak truth to power, even with a shaky voice or a whisper because your throat is raw from screaming, know that the marginalized students you spoke for hearing you. But also remember not to add to the trauma that K-12 education can be by thinking that students need "saviors." They need empathetic teachers with a heart for justice who know their content and will teach them boldly. Just remember, students have a village and a community. They don't need us gentrifying it.
In closing, I hope this summer is what you need and want it to be, and that you stay safe and well. If you were sick this year with COVID, I hope you're on the mend. If you lost staff or students, I speak healing and peace to your community, and I love you all. See you in August.
Con Amor, y un Abrazo Fuerte,
With love and a strong embrace,
Ebony L. Thornton
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Ebony Thornton is a Spanish teacher currently employed outside the greater Atlanta area. In her almost 20 years of teaching, she has worked in Middle and High School and has a passion for making students see the relevance and real-world application of language learning in a global society. She also wants to make her class fun, engaging, and interactive. She also created #BlackWLTeachers as a way for Black language teachers to network and connect to ensure that the World Language classroom is welcoming to Black students, and dispel preconceived notions of what it means to be and look multilingual. In her spare time, she enjoys being active, listening to classic 90s Pop and R&B cooking, and spending time with her family and friends.