The Breaking of a Teacher

We had no idea what to expect in March. Would we be out of school for a few weeks? A few months? No one (rightfully) anticipated that millions of students and teachers would end the school year virtually.

I still remember the first week of ‘virtual learning’ (I still have not decided on a proper naming for it), one of my students asked me: “Ms. Seward, when are we going back to school?”

All I could do was tell him the truth: “I do not know.”

When classes ended that day, I logged off of the computer and cried. Some of those tears were caused by sadness. I was well aware that putting assignments online and meeting via Zoom/Meet/Teams would not provide my students the level of support and interaction they needed from me and their classmates. They were also entitled to more, according to their IEPs. Neither did it provide me the support and interaction I needed from them.

The other tears? Oh, those were tears of anger. Elected officials intentionally downplayed the existence of Covid-19 and, eventually, its severity. State and local officials waited until the last possible minute to make and announce school closure decisions. We did not have the opportunity to tell our students goodbye or even explain what was happening around them.

Even worse: Teachers did not have time to prepare, plan, or figure out what to grab out of their classrooms. We had no idea how to shift from face-to-face instruction to full-scale virtual teaching, but we had three days to figure it out.

The entire education community was caught with its pants down.

There were hundreds of thousands of kids without devices; even more were without reliable internet service. For the teachers who work in the area of Special Education, our challenges to serving our kids were (and still are) monumental. Not even David stands a chance of coming out of this victorious.

No more tears. Plenty of cuss words, though.

And fatigue. The short amount of time that we have been in school this year has already proven to be damn near impossible.

Unsustainable.

Demanding.

Wrought with uncertainty and empty platitudes. Requests to ‘be flexible’ instead of admitting that chaos and decision-making (without student, parent, and teacher input) are the epitome of ‘We do not value you’.

I do not recall any other position that required this much documentation, ever. Coming from someone who keeps receipts, literally and figuratively, that speaks volumes. And wastes a lot of time, especially when I know the people implementing the requirements are not going to read the documentation.

Attending meetings where your colleagues try to find ways to force students to turn on their cameras or give ‘Gotcha!’ quizzes at the end of class to see who actually stayed logged-in. These punitive ideas from the same colleagues who cannot manage to arrive at a meeting on time, face-to-face and virtually. The same colleagues who do not know how to mute their mics before entering a meeting because we have only been meeting virtually since March. Go figure.

But I knew things would be different. We knew things would be different. We simply did not know how ‘different’ would look. They had plenty of time to plan, though. I know I spent a great deal of my quarantine summer planning. Finding resources. Laminating. Setting up my Google Classrooms. Reading about best practices for this new normal. Why does it seem as though the decision-makers spent as little time as possible, planning?

When you talk yourself out of resigning, twice, by the end of the second week of school then you know things have shifted. I still love the art of teaching, but it does not appear that I will be doing much of that for the unforseeable future. Were it not for the fact that I have a kid in college and a high school Junior still depending on me, I would have listened to my intuition and walked away.

That is how you break a teacher.

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I only write when I have something important to say. Everything else will be tweeted from @MoniseLSeward

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Monise L Seward

I only write when I have something important to say. Everything else will be tweeted from @MoniseLSeward