Seeing Beyond by William Klein

In hindsight, the year’s been a bright, blistering haze.

School is over for the year, and I can breathe again.  I’m not alone. I’ve heard some interesting turns of phrases to articulate just how tired other teachers are.  “I feel like I just wrestled a monster.”  “I feel like I just ran a marathon — underwater.”

It shows in the weary core of students, faculty and staff alike; mugging sleepy dissonance, restless grins and harboring an earnest desire to sleep in for a week just to recover from the last few weeks.

This year I taught 8 classes at the most 40 minutes per class every day. The first semester completely online and the second semester five live and three online. Teachers walked from class to class pushing metal carts that held our cleaning wares and scholastic utilities for teaching, wearing masks, teaching our lessons, wiping down all we touched and moving on to the next class to do it again.

On top of that, we still had parent calls – which were greater in number due to the lack of connection and students missing classes due to lost connections or being overwhelmed by staring at a screen for eight hours in the day — lesson planning, academic meetings and department meetings in addition. Some teachers had two and three preps with their number of classes. It was a healthy distraction being home, but the whole day and then-some was pretty well filled.

I’m thinking of a teacher friend who was diagnosed with MS. Crippled for a time, when she regained her strength, she was right back at it. She was walking down the stairs and fatigued from the disease. She insisted on continuing to work teaching 8 classes with 2 preps. She was there for her students.  She was dragging her leg and her one arm hung limp.

I’m thinking about another colleague who picked up duties from another teacher on maternity leave in addition to his 8 classes, a full-time job and a half that amounted to no life of his own. Doing it all in the name of being a team player.

I’m thinking of a friend who lost a father to covid and returned to work full time in person since the beginning of the year.  Looking over his shoulder to see if a sneeze might reach him and the virus right on his heels to be the next victim.

Weary parents trying to manage students being at home and missing work, wondering how this is all going to shake out. The Dean who was caught between doing what was right for a student and meeting the demands of a parent and the emotional toll it takes as his decision toys with his sensibilities.

The administrator trying to keep it all together, listening to the concerns of parents and faculty and staff alike in making this work for everyone.

The superintendent who stood outside greeting voters on a stormy day campaigning for a school levy that failed.

I’m thinking of the students who lost relatives but still made it to school to better themselves and try to rise above their grief.

No martyr’s intent here.  Just people trying to do their best in an extraordinary situation.

Teachers fight for their students. The battle against ignorance is just that.  Concerned about missing days because it may put students behind, some teachers refuse to take off. 

Planning new lessons and developing curriculum, delving deeper into the material to ensure students are finding meaning in the work so they will invest their passion in it.  Only to have them lose faith in a lesson and not understand the point of education for their future. Learning how to teach again after years of teaching, trying to reach students in news ways.

It wasn’t lost on perceptive students.  “What are you doing posting a lesson at 12:30am? You need your sleep. You look tired.” 

I replied, “What were you doing up that late taking note of it?”

Both of us catching the irony and one-upmanship, knowing full well we are both irresponsible in attending to our needs, or our minds are just so busy that they refuse to sleep.

I think it’s getting clearer, though.  There’s no defeating people committed to a cause with an intense focus on meeting the demands of adversity.

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