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Bridgette Gallagher is a high school English teacher in Saratoga Springs, NY where she has worked for the past 20 years teaching grades 9,11, and Creative Writing. In addition to being a teacher leader, she also serves as the Vice President of Secondary for the New York State English Council.
We’re here. We love kids. We want to learn everything we can about them in order to best teach them. We want to do all of the teachings we’ve done in the past with the same zest and enthusiasm. With the same optimism and investment. But- we’re struggling.
Maybe it’s the fact that our profession got shaken up and dumped out before the world in spring 2020, maybe it’s because we have had to learn *so many* new things in order to do our job well, or maybe it’s just how depersonalized education has become- a mask, a computer screen, a digital platform of link after link.On Feeling Flat: Teachers in 2021 Click To Tweet
Something’s changed. And while we know part of it is the global pandemic- there’s something more than that. It’s hard to put your finger on. Teaching feels harder, almost higher in stakes and expectations. We want so much to bounce back the way we thought we might last June.
We have lost a part of us. A part of us that had stamina and endurance and good reflexes to do what’s right at every turn. We must surrender to our laptops, our never-ending to-do list. Our creative ideas somehow don’t have the levity and excitement they used to.
Everything has changed. Our content redesigned, our clientele negatively impacted, our working atmosphere feels like it has picked up to a pace we cannot keep up with. Teachers have been through something I don’t think they can even describe. And- somehow- they hopped back on the treadmill in September, sneakers laced up and ready.
But what should feel like a simple road race at this time in our career feels like a trail run to the summit. What should be creative and innovative and meaningful to us has lost its sparkle. What should be a year of rebirth after a year of such changes and disruption feels—- flat.
*We* are flat, too. We are tapped out. And with our teaching selves on constant overdrive, we deplete faster than we used to. We are worried about our kids who need us and the school’s structure more than ever. We bear the weight of social-emotional learning, mental health breaks, personalized teaching- but still, we know our content has to make it in there, too.
We are floundering and bumping into each other in the hall. Offering “I am fried today” or “It’s been a tough week” to one another. But every week we are fried and every week is tough and as we turn the calendar over to November, we think, “I thought it would feel more normal by now.”
Some of us are wise and know that the change to the entire profession is permanent. Or at least permanent until all kids affected by the pandemic graduate. The line of 2020 is how we will mark how everything changed in what learners learn and teachers teach. We will be referring to it as a major impact on our instruction for years to come.
But- even as flat as we are- our approach to our students will never be. They are the best part of our day or week and it is in teaching and working with kids that we feel un-flat. But with kids needing us in different ways now more than ever— we feel spread thin— so thin. I’ve seen teachers frayed and broken. I’ve seen teachers questioning themselves. I’ve seen a profession I love putting on a scary monster mask that makes us all want to run. And sometimes we run. We run to each other, we pour into ourselves, we convince each other to lighten our loads, and we listen. Man, do we listen.
We’re here. We are people who fell in love with education and young people at one point and decided they were who we wanted to spend our career with. We are human beings who (sometimes) don’t have all the right answers in an ever-evolving educational landscape. We are moms and dads and spouses and friends and daughters and sons. We are some days just trying to have one win among the losses. We want our profession to matter. We want our lessons to matter. We want to show your kids how much they matter in the gauntlet thrown before them.
And we are trying. Trying not to be flat. Trying to stay engaged in the lesson of the moment. Trying to hold our colleagues up (this sometimes requires an obscene amount of coffee, cafeteria nachos, and Halloween candy). Trying to look at glass after glass after glass as half full and not half empty.
But, we’re here.