As I tucked my children, ages 6 and 9, into bed tonight, I reflected upon the last year and how difficult it has been for them and how much of their lives have changed since Covid-19 turned the world upside down.
My 9-year-old’s sleepless nights, frustration with a loss of routine, anxiety, and frequent migraines at the beginning of the pandemic are fresh in my mind. He wanted to go to school, wanted to see his friends, and wanted his teacher to be in the same room and not on a Zoom screen. I tried to help him with schoolwork as much as I could, but I just did not compare to his beloved teacher.
The grief I felt that my now 6-year-old did not finish preschool last year still haunts me. Memories of an outgoing little girl who suddenly no longer had opportunities to build more relationships with her peers, play, and hug her teachers are still devastating. I tried to work with my daughter on some kindergarten readiness skills but, again, it was not the same for her because I was not one of her nurturing preschool teachers.
Here’s the funny thing. I work at their school as a substitute teacher. But I am not my children’s teachers, and trying to step into their roles made me acutely aware of how much I admire and respect my children’s teachers.
Thankfully, fall 2020 gave families in Vermont the gift of going to school in person. Even if that meant wearing masks, social distancing, and constant sanitizing. Whether we went part-time or full-time, having my children attend at least some in-person school was the greatest gift my family received this year.
I look back on these past few months of this school year, and it brings brave and happy tears to my eyes. My kids and their classmates have had a piece of normalcy back and I have the teachers and staff at my children’s school to thank for it, especially during this Teacher Appreciation Week.
My children’s teachers bravely marched into school buildings last fall, despite being scared to become sick, and not knowing much about Covid-19. They have been keeping our children as safe as possible by following restrictions. My children’s teachers have, despite all of the challenges a pandemic creates, kept believing in our kids and never once gave up on them no matter what uncertainties existed.
My kids’ teachers are the reason my son has slept through the night this year and has been cheerful on his way to school. They are the reason that, even though my daughter did not finish preschool, you cannot tell because of the social and academic gains she’s made in kindergarten.
The two children who call me mom are okay. I am doing my best, but I know that they smile so much more at the end of each day because their teachers showed up this year, day after day, no matter how hard the situation became. This was no easy feat.
Our teachers have pivoted to remote learning without complaint, and on incredibly short notice when a class or school quarantine has been needed. They have dealt with crazy schedules, overly stressed-out parents, and have been in charge of following more safety protocols than ever before. All of this while managing their own lives and families.
Classes such as art and physical education and chorus, and extracurricular activities have been modified this year. It’s so much easier without a pandemic to make activities more fun. Physical education activities have been modified for safety and singing has been only outside for music class. Each child has their own set of school and art supplies, which teachers had to sort prior to the beginning of school and now have to keep stocked. School assemblies have been held via Zoom, lunch has been held within classrooms, and making recess safe became a creative process. The time, dedication, and effort to make this all happen is nothing short of amazing.
Teachers have always done so much more than just teaching. They are listeners, givers of advice, and confidence builders. This year has given a whole different meaning to those roles.
None of my children’s teachers took a class in college entitled ‘How to teach during a pandemic.’ However, the teachers in our schools are not only surviving day in and day out, they are still wearing every ‘hat’ they did prior to the onset of Covid-19. The strength they exude is tremendous, and I am so grateful.
This Teacher Appreciation Week, I just want to recognize all teachers! Whether you teach preschool, elementary, middle, high school or are in the field of higher education… I see you and am profoundly indebted to you. You are all rockstars in my eyes!
To the teachers at my children’s elementary school: thank you for not giving up, for working harder than you ever have, for keeping my babies safe, loving them, for being there for them when I cannot, and for being resilient people. Our community is what it is because of you and your efforts with our children.
Truly, words cannot express how thankful I am.