BY NICOLE MCGRANE, M.ED.
Barranca Mesa Elementary School
When asked to write this, I was overcome with fear. I didn’t want to think about the last few months. I didn’t want to make all the loss and fear a reality. I wanted to keep those feelings at bay. Nothing about this Pandemic closure has been easy and I have worked hard to keep my emotions in check.
Teachers make special connections with their students. They support them, guide them, and help them believe in themselves. It is so difficult to see a student withdrawn, silent, almost in tears but not be able to physically be in their presence to give the support and reassurance needed. Words over a computer screen with a large group is no way to make individual connections. E-mail or messaging isn’t enough either. It is not possible to provide what each student needs from a distance. The pressure to be the anchor for students, guardians of their mental health, and provider of family support has been overwhelming.
We are told that our efforts are seen, our impact is real, and that our role is vital. The weight of our students and their families weigh heavily on our shoulders all while our own families are struggling. As we try to navigate this unprecedented situation, we are bombarded with social media saying teachers are expecting too much from students or they aren’t expecting enough. Headlines stating things like – schools are closed and teachers still being paid, must be nice. With the economy crashing, education budget cuts are the first to be considered. Once again we have been dragged through the mud, devalued and doubted instead of being held in high regard, supported and recognized for the impossible work being done. We are stuck in a no-win situation.
Thank you to the parents and students who have recognized our struggle and worked to support us during this time. The positive posts, e-mail thank you’s, and little things have been just enough to keep us going. We want nothing more than to do what is best for our students and that often means jumping through a number of hoops and navigating obstacles. We have learned that teaching is never easy and when we are at our lowest it is the support of parents and students that save us.
I know students have been traumatized and have experienced a lot of loss but so have teachers and school staff. We all needed that one last day to say goodbye and have closure with our students but we didn’t get it. This is one of the biggest holes I feel in my heart. I needed to have that time together as much as they did. Through it all, we put on a brave face and presented confidence so that others may glean strength from us that we weren’t sure existed. Our support systems were removed and we had to work in isolation but we did what needed to be done despite feeling broken and uncertain.
As we bring this school year to an end, I feel like I am still in shock from all that has happened. I feel like there are so many loose ends, missed opportunities, and my heart is still hurting. I miss my students. I have not fully accepted that the next time I stand in front of a class it will be with students I do not yet know. I still sometimes wish this was all just some crazy dream. That this isn’t our reality. Then I begrudgingly recognize that this is the life we have right now. I haven’t cried since the closure but have been crying all day while trying to process recent events and write this. Like it or not, this school year, that has been one of my best in years (prior to the closure) is ending and I feel like it is incomplete. I hate that it is ending this way. Please hug your kids and reach out to a teacher or school employee. We all did our best.
Editor’s Note: Nicole McGrane is the author of “Teaching While Handcuffed” (available on amazon.com) and Perspectives, which will be released in June.