What can I say other than I’m sorry? When the year began, I walked into my classroom the same way I had many years before- with enthusiasm, excitement, anticipation, and a bit of anxiety. I started the new school year expecting it would be like every other year. We would dive into history, discussing and reviewing curriculum, breaking down historical eras, and revisiting stories that repeatedly conveyed the essence of the human spirit. Little did I know, we were about to enter our own historical chapter together and witness in actual time, not only what struggle and hardship is but also strength and perseverance.
I begin with an apology not just to you, but I’m also apologizing to myself. I am well aware that teaching is a work of heart and we dive headfirst into our daily practice and craft, but I took it for granted. I took for granted walking into work every morning and greeting my colleagues, administrators, and staff with a simple hello. I took for granted strolling into my classroom, setting up for the day’s lessons, and making sure I was ready for what another day of teaching would bring. Most of all, I took for granted seeing your smiles and interacting with the young minds who entered my classroom every day. The ones who sat before me, expecting to learn the topic at hand and whose curiosity would shift the conversation to current events, which made us question and think or to your funny stories and jokes that made us laugh and be silly. I took it all for granted, and I’m sorry about that.
I walked into my empty classroom today to clean it out and so many thoughts ran through my head. I reflected on what was and what could have been and I wondered if you all knew. Did you all know how much I cared? Did you know how much I loved seeing you and how much fun you made my days at work? Did you know you made me feel like what I did mattered? More importantly, I wondered whether you knew what you did, in and out of the classroom, mattered as well; especially to me. Was I able to express to you how much you mean to me? I’m not so sure if I did, and that thought fills me with an overwhelming sadness because this was not how the year should have ended. I was supposed to still have time!
All the online resources and remote learning techniques in the world could never replace the energy you feel in the classroom. It could never replace the face-to-face connections we all have in school and now more than ever, it could never replace the comfort of a warm hug or a heart to heart conversation. It was the understanding that no matter what; I am here for you to help you get through this, knowing you are not alone. The feeling of helplessness is what I grapple with every day but as I stare at those empty seats in front of me, I can’t help but feel a sense of grief for the time and opportunity lost but I also feel a sense of pride and hope.
I have witnessed you rise to the occasion these last two months, proving that you have what it takes to look disappointment and uncertainty in the eyes and continue to smile and stay hopeful. I have seen how strong and brave you all are when fear surrounds you. I have seen and heard your own stories of persistence in the face of adversity. I realize now, that no historical figure or event I would have taught you could have shown you the essence of the human spirit, more than your own stories and events have. You are all warriors in my book and I hope one day you will look back and see how you survived and overcame through your own power and determination and that all of it just helped strengthen you.
In the meantime, I will try my best to not beat myself up too much over a rare predicament that none of us could have foreseen or controlled. It was not meant to be this way. I had a lot more lessons to teach, a lot more laughs to share and a lot more love to give. If I never took the chance to tell you before, please know you are loved and cherished and I miss you more than words can say. I have learned so many things and I know one thing’s for sure… I will never take my days in the classroom for granted again. I know what truly matters now and when I walk into my classroom again one day, it will be with a new sense of appreciation that will stay with me for the rest of my career and it will be the greatest lesson life could teach all of us. So I guess it would have all been worth it.