“Life is chaotic right now.” ” I’m frustrated,”“It’s just not how I thought this last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year would go with my students.” “It also is not how I thought my sons senior year would end.” No prom, all spring sports seasons were cancelled and graduation will be virtual, something new for all of us. However, as a teacher and a mom, I have to keep that positive mindset and just say, “here we go”, this is new and we are definitely living history. My heart also breaks with those that have lost loved ones during this Pandemic. I would say we are all grieving in our own way. Many have not seen their families in months, and daily we do worry who will catch this virus next. “Our new Norm?”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these are my primary thoughts as I continually ask the question, “Are you doing OK?” or, I’m sorry, and I know it’s not fair. I feel like I should be doing something. Along those lines, perhaps I should also be asking a second question: “What do you think you’ll learn from this?” This is where the teacher comes out in me. This fitness side of me asks, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?”
I’ve realized that my job as a teacher has little to do with teaching content, and a great deal more to do with facilitating opportunities for my students and my own kid’s growth. Because let’s be honest, most of the content—definitions, theories, models—can easily be retrieved in a whopping five seconds with a targeted Google search.
My thoughts and heart go to my students and all of those in the class of 2020. For many, this will be the ONLY graduation they will every experience. As for my 8th-grade students, I have watched them grow, mature and I have watched forever friendships connect in a deep understanding of each other. I have watched teachers put in tireless hours to make sure our students are ok. I know because I am one of them.
My heart hurts to not hug my students good-bye on the last day of school. You see my students will move on to high school next year. I hope some of these lessons from room 7 follow my students and I hope those of you reading this can apply much of this to you as well.
Don’t be afraid to fail. I don’t mean your classes. I mean in life. Take risks and try new things. Don’t be scared to try out for a sport you love, a club that excites you or even the school play. You will build amazing friendships with those that surround you and support your interests. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Train for a run, go cycling, pick up a new hobby.
Ask questions. Question your friends if they are heading in the “wrong direction” in life; in fact, you might even question if you should stay friends with them. Every stage in life is a time for a change. You will outgrow some of your friendships and build new amazing friendships with those you thought you would never be friends with. Think outside the box. Do not allow yourself to get stuck. I have learned that people come and go at certain times of your life. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you are growing and they are not, this could be toxic. Ask yourself questions such as, “Is this what I want?”, “what is best for me”, “how do I live my most healthy life”?
Get to know your teachers. Yes, we actually like when students share their private lives with us. Most of us also like to share our lives with you. It is those people who come in to talk with me because they want to, not because they have to, whom I will stay close to. It is great to have that connection with our students. We were your age once as well. I know hard to believe. We also love to come to your events. It is great watching our students do their thing. It is also great to help our students when facing hard times. We are more than a teacher. Parents, get to know the teachers instead of posting shit on social media. They/We are human too. We are all in this together. AND we have kids as well. We get it, most of the time.
Specifically for my students: Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. You are all a great group of people. I trusted you to not steal things out of my room. I trusted you in my classroom with my purse sitting right there. my cell phone out in the open, all my supplies… I trusted you to walk around the school, as long as I knew where you were. I did all of this because my instincts told me that you are a great group of people. Yes, we had some rough patches along the way, but in the end, I trusted that you would make the correct decisions in the long run. And when you didn’t, I trusted you learned a lesson.
Believe. This has been my theme for anyone connected in my life. Believe you matter … all of you learned that even a 13- or 14-year-old can make a difference in the world. Our High school kids are making a difference and we are all living this history together. A little act of kindness can make someone’s day. Personally, I believe that all kids can make a difference in the world—someone just has to guide them on how to start. As an adult, I will always believe in those around me. We all have good built within us. Believe in YOU and believe in our younger generations to learn for our example.
So, to my students and all those graduating, it is time. Time to let you go. Time to let you fly. Time to share you with the world. You will all fly on your new journey, don’t let me down. As much as many teachers and parents would like to have you return and redo this year, we all know you must move on. As I always say to my students, “Once my kid, always my kid.” Know that I am always here for you. To my parents. Thank you for the teamwork and know I am always here for you as well. To all parents out there. WE DID IT!
This has made our world come to a ‘slam on your breaks stop.’ This has made us appreciate time at home, binge-watching Netflix, cleaning out closets, garages and actually spending time with our families. But it also occurs to me that this is when the world needs our eyes and ears and minds. This has never happened before here (at least not since 1918). Together we have to help make sense of this and recover afterwards.
Keep records of the e-mails and texts you’re getting, the thoughts you’re having, the way your hearts and minds are reacting to this strange new way of living? It’s all-important. Fifty years from now, people will be learning this in history class.
I have to pinch myself and remind myself that we are living our first pandemic. I have to remind myself that patience will get us through this safely and put trust into our leaders, not the morons that are on the streets bashing our leaders.
I feel thankful that I can live through this as a mom and as a teacher. I am thankful for the lessons that we are learning each and every day. It has brought out ugly in people, but it has brought out love, communities helping each other, our own appreciation for our family and friends and most of all, it has SLOWED us all down to truly look at life.
Embrace this part of history and write your own story, take your own pictures and record this moment in time. Show respect, own it, and be kind!
Becky Shaffer/ Life Coach/ Author/ Educator