It was a Sunday afternoon, in the middle of March, when the email came for which I had been holding my breath, telling all of us teachers that we would be transitioning immediately to remote teaching. The next day we met solemnly at school, a chair space between each of us, to hear the action plan and then go to our rooms to figure out what we would need in order to teach from home.
I’m going to be honest here and tell you that at first it felt a little like a vacation. My home-body, introverted self was thinking, Yes! Working from home!
Until we got started teaching our students via Google Classroom, and it was like being thrown into a swimming pool with all of our clothes on.
I haven’t blogged for over a month, the longest break I’ve taken from writing since I started blogging in 2012, because the last weeks have been so hard. The farther we got into the last quarter of school, the more I realized something important. It was shocking to me and then encouraging.
I am needed. I matter.
As assignments were turned in or not turned in, as the case may be, and student questions came through my email (so many emails), it became obvious there was a great lacking there. The lack was the relationship that happens in a classroom. Looking back, I can now see my importance in the classroom.
I am a thumb, keeping students moving forward who don’t seem to want to move forward.
I am an eye that helps students stay honest when taking tests.
I am an explainer, who speaks instructions and then repeats them until they finally sink in.
I am a listener, fielding questions and helping students get through challenging assignments.
I am a responder, as I read body language and listen to conversation and adjust my approach in teaching according to the energy and mood of the class each day.
I am a coach, encouraging those who think the work is too hard.
I am a mom’s heart, watching for yawns and sniffles and sagging shoulders.
But for two months I couldn’t do any of those things. No way to listen, to read body language, to lean over a desk and explain something. No way to adjust lesson plans because I could see how tired my students were. The farther we went along in remote learning, the more painful became the separation from my students. Students, across the board, didn’t do very well on finals, compared to normal. I know they would have done better, if I could have helped them prepare for the exam in person.
School ended with grief, and I still feel like I’ve been through a car wreck. Tears come in unexpected moments.
But I know one thing: I matter as a teacher, even though often I’ve wondered silently if I do. Even with all of my flaws (so many flaws), I am now convinced that my students would have been better off learning with me in their presence than remotely. I got to step into George Bailey’s shoes, in It’s a Wonderful Life, to see how my students would do without me being close and present in their lives and to end the story knowing deep in my soul that I am needed and valuable.
My simple message to you is that you matter, too. Maybe you’re a mom or a wife or an employee who thinks you’re hardly even making a dent of significance in the lives of people around you. You’re wrong. Even on your worst day, when you feel like you’re failing all the things, your people are still in a better situation because you’re with them, investing in them. There is a list for you, just like the list I made above for me, that can describe the value you bring in your home and your church and your work place.
You are made in the image of God, and your presence in this world means something.