This Is Not What I Was Expecting

March and April are typically my favorite time of year as a teacher. Everything just feels a little bit brighter: the sun is out longer, the birds are chirping, my students and I have a rapport that works, I have figured out (most) everyone’s quirks, and the content and curriculum feel like they are coming together. All those times when I said, “This will connect to something later,” are coming to fruition and my students see the purpose of how I designed the whole year (or so I hope). 

That is not happening right now. I was not expecting a pandemic that would shut everything down. I was not expecting a need to teach remotely within a matter of days. I was not expecting to have to parent my own three children and facilitate their learning on top of the teaching and support of my own students. I was not expecting this. 

And yet here we are.  

Now what? As educators (and parents), we are in scramble mode right now. There is so much information coming our way and so many demands from colleagues, administrators, parents, students, and ourselves that it feels like we are wading through a sea of jellyfish. No matter which way I turn, I’m being stung, even though I’m trying to move forward. What if I don’t reach them? What if they don’t do the work? What if they are too busy caring for younger siblings? What if someone else does it better than I do? There is just so much. Too much.

As I look ahead to such uncertainty, I am making a conscious decision to keep these three values close to my heart. I invite you to do the same.

  • Remember their humanity. The range of emotions for our students will be significant. For some, joy at an extended vacation, and then anger at the realization of how much work will be happening at home. For some, trepidation or anxiety, because routines both in and out of the home are in constant flux. For others, fear, because school is their safe place where they are loved, fed, and physically safe. And for some, despair, because of the realization that they cannot even do the work being sent home because they lack the support or access to technology to be successful. Find ways to connect with your students from afar. Post silly videos to google classroom, write them postcards, make a picture collage of what you have been up to. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, need to be all about academics.   
  • Remember your own humanity. I am feeling sad that I might not see my students for a while. I am feeling sad that my own children will miss out on time with their remarkable teachers. I am worried that I won’t be enough or do enough to meet their needs because I don’t even know what those needs are. I am missing my colleagues and the sense of family that is a part of being an adult in a building with teenagers. I am worried about when I will see them again and what that will all mean. It’s okay to feel this sense of loss. Part of this loss is the reality that we don’t know what is to come next. Reach out to your colleagues. Create a group Snapchat, text thread, or schedule daily check-ins. Make sure that you get outside every day and away from your computer (and your family who might be going stir crazy!) We teach our students about mindfulness and self-care. Let’s not forget that for ourselves.
  • Remember these moments. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this is what the coronavirus has revealed about the systemic inequities in our school systems. Suddenly we are making plans for getting internet access into the homes of our neediest students; we are using school transportation to deliver food; we are ensuring that the content we deliver is what is the most essential and purposeful. Shouldn’t we be doing these things all of the time? Why don’t our school districts offer hot spots of WiFi in areas of low income housing? How are our children living in poverty ever supposed to break out of that cycle if they cannot do their homework every night? Can we allow the coronavirus to make us better? Can it force us to ask why the barriers exist that we are suddenly working to overcome?

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that when we come out on the other side, we will have two choices. We will have the opportunity to take what we have learned and become better, or we can choose to go back to the way things were and hope this never happens again. To me, the choice is obvious.  I hope it is for the rest of us, too.

Until then, deep breaths. We’ve got this.

Heidi Crumrine, the 2018 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, is an English and reading teacher at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire. She has been teaching for 18 years, including three years in the New York City Public Schools.

She has a B.S. in family studies from the University of New Hampshire, an M.A.T. in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an M.Ed. in reading instruction from Grand Canyon University.  She is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, National Education Association, and NEA-NH. Heidi’s writing is published in the monthly “Today’s Teacher” column in the Concord Monitor, Education Post, Heinemann, and the Teaching4Tomorrow blog. Heidi derives great joy in engaging with the students in front of her; she knows they are the best hope for the future.


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