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As we close out this school year, I feel overwhelmed with a different type of teacher guilt.  Like everything else during this forced time of distance learning, the pandemic has exaggerated many teachers’ missions of the need to reach every student somehow.  When we know that we have put forth the Herculean effort, when we know we have gone above and beyond, when we know we have sometimes lost focus on the masses in an attempt to motivate the few, it still feels like an utter failure to know that we have lost that one.

The end of the year has come, and with that, the emails and calls from some we have not heard from in weeks, even months.  With literally days left, fairness and equity are highlighted to the point where we often feel obligated to bend over backward to help students pass, not realizing we might actually be setting some up for the impossible task of playing catch up, while still attempting to complete current work.  We also have to remember that to focus on such a task in one specific class often comes at the expense of another subject.

[bctt tweet=”But what else can we do in our desire to help that one we couldn’t reach all year?” username=””]

The relationships and rapport that we build with most of our students are so often overshadowed by a teacher’s tend to focus on what they did not accomplish or who they could not reach.  It can have many negative outcomes on our overall effectiveness as an educator: self-doubt, self-criticism, or even self-sabotage of great strategies we know have worked for us in the past to reach dozens of students in our careers.  Both unfortunately and fortunately, this comes with the territory, because as educators, we are constantly trying to differentiate instruction, diversify curriculum and dedicate our blood, sweat, and tears in our efforts to be the Superheroes our students will look back on and say “That teacher changed my life.” Do we secretly have the clearly unrealistic dream that all students will be affected in that way?

Teacher guilt comes in many forms.  Could I have done more?  What could I have done differently?  Why couldn’t I reach that one?  If only I had more time…To my fellow educators, I quote the prophetic words of Tupac Amaru Shakur:

Don’t ever change, keep your essence…
Always do your best, don’t let this pressure make you panic

(“Me Against the World”, Tupac)

Teachers are the most change-embracing, curriculum-shifting, pandemic-navigating epitomes of resilience in this game we call life!  We humbly and consistently exude endurance and empathy!  Of course, we will always think back on losing that one, but never forget the ones you could reach!  My fellow change-makers, never doubt your impact, as that is the exact reason why we got into education in the first place!  Keep your head held high, and remain confident in the fact that we will live to teach another day!  End this year knowing you gave it your all, and know that this tremendous effort alone will be enough to impact the masses!

Michele Lamons-Raiford is a hearing American Sign Language (ASL) and English teacher at Pinole Valley...

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