I’m having lunch with a teacher tomorrow. She stopped by my porch to invite me. And we agreed to bring take-out to an outdoor, socially-distanced meal.
“I want to talk about school starting up,” she said, “and her eyes had a wild, darting kind of a look.
I wish I could come to that lunch tomorrow with some gifts—words of wisdom or reassurances or a bag of tricks for this unprecedented school opening.
But I’ve talked with other teachers on walks around town and on Zoom and on the telephone, and they’re all saying the same thing—that nothing seems right for this school year. It feels wrong to bring students back to school and wrong to keep them home and wrong to do a hybrid—to keep them home one day and bring them back the next.
The good teachers I know have always calmed their before-school jitters by preparing and then preparing some more. But this year, teachers don’t know how to get ready for school—except they are quite sure they will need a stock pile of masks and cans of disinfectant. That is, unless they never enter their classroom doors.
Having taught for thirty years, I’m used to sharing what I’ve learned with younger teachers. But this year, I don’t know the answers. This year’s teachers are going where I haven’t been.
What they need from me is not a list of effective techniques, not the steps to solve the problems of a pandemic school year. They don’t need the pressure of my words.
Instead, they need me to listen to this new story in education, to feel the pain of teaching in a pandemic year, to grieve with them, to recognize how hard it is when the old world changes before the new one can be seen.