Truth be told I’m a different kind of front line worker. I have tremendous respect for people who serve in health care, I always have, but even more so now.
I work with a lot of really awesome different kind of front line workers. Maybe we aren’t the kind you’d picture but nonetheless that’s what we are. We are teachers. We walk into a school filled with 900 people to do what we do best. And that thing we do best, isn’t teach. It’s connect.
I see what these kids have given up this past year and what their worries are. They stress about missed opportunities…things they can never get back, social isolation, fear of failing, uncertainty of the future. These kids carry a stress with them that even though we are adults and have more life experience than they may, that we can’t really comprehend.
I was never a teenager with social media and the constant fear of missing out. Because quite frankly if and when I missed out on something, I may never have known it happened in the first place.
I was not a teenager during a national pandemic all while we live in constant fear of things being shut down and the potential of losing something else I may be looking forward to or have worked my whole high school career for.
I will admit that when I speak to my other front line workers, teachers, administrators, coaches…there is one word I hear the most…drowning. In many ways we feel like we are drowning or that we aren’t doing a good job or that we cannot handle one more meeting or duty being stacked on top of all of the things we are already managing at school.
Exhaustion is another word I am hearing a lot. From these front line workers this is not good news. I know we aren’t alone. I cannot imagine what people in healthcare must be feeling right now.
But I’m here to tell you a few things. What I also see are a lot of teachers making a profound impact on our students, who again, are struggling in ways we can’t identify with entirely. At St James I’m happy to report we just finished week 10 of in person learning and for the first time in a long time I feel like our students are just grateful to be sitting in the classroom.
There is a renewed appreciation for the work we do, so that’s nice.
These kids are struggling. It worries me what this year and all the changes and all the unknowns is doing to these kids. They had stress and anxiety and some even had these things before this happened. Now we have this national pandemic on top of everything else.
So while at times I feel like I’m drowning or that I’m exhausted, I am holding onto the conversation I had today in my first hour class with my students about mental health. I hope they heard me. I am holding on to the conversation that I had with another student about failure, and I know that it helped because of the smile on her face when she walked away. I am clutching the note a student wrote me this week thanking me for what I’m doing.
You guys, we need more of this kind of stuff in our world, especially right now. Any amount of exhaustion is welcome by this group of front line workers if they know they made a difference in even one kids life each day. Then, we welcome it. I’m proud to work on the front lines in our school system. I’m proud to work at St James Academy that’s worked so hard to create an environment that is as normal as possible for these kids who have already lost so much.
I’m glad it’s Friday. I’m going to recharge my batteries and get ready for another week on those front lines with the kids and coworkers that I love.
If you have a kid that is attending school in person, and you are grateful, send an email, write a note (maybe even send wine;). Those little moments of feeling like we are making a difference keep our tanks full.
To my fellow teachers, I see you. You are doing good and important things. You are enough. If your lesson plan isn’t perfect it’s ok, your presence in your students lives is really what they need. So hold your head high. You are willing to do something right now in the middle of this mess that many others couldn’t. I’m proud to know and work with many of you.