March 19, 2020

The Sadness is Real: An Open Letter to the Teachers

"What's keeping you awake at night?" A friend of mine asks this question when she wants to get the to the heart of what's on the minds of the people she loves. The worries that keep us awake at night can point to the core of who we are.

What's on my mind tonight? The teachers. It's 3:00 in the morning, and I can't get you out of my mind.

You didn't plan on this. And let's be honest: teachers are planners.  This is one giant curveball.

You were gearing up for spring break - that's all the time off you needed. One week off, and then you had plans to head into the homestretch of the school year, the weeks we've all been waiting for. The most fun units that you save for springtime. The sentimental traditions. The finish lines. That last stretch where your team rounds third base and heads for home plate.

And now this, the closure that was one week, then two, and now four, probably eight, but who really knows?

I taught kindergarten and third grade, and the thought of someone taking my kiddos away from me in those last weeks? Well, it has me awake tonight, feeling so very sad for you.

I would have worried for the kids who were hungry - for food, yes, but also for soul care. For eye contact. For morning hugs and high-fives and secret handshakes. There's so much you can learn by looking at your students, by the way they slump over their desk during a spelling test and the way they hold the book too close or too tight when they're in the reading corner. You have spent months, weeks, days, and a million moments with them. Your heartstrings are tied to them, and now your heart feels stretched in so many directions that it's frayed down the middle.

A kindergarten teacher I know lined her kiddos up for the "last day," and one of her students said, "Well, I hope I see you again." Oh, bless it all. That's too much. This isn't how it's supposed to be.

In beginning literacy, we teach them that every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end… but your ending just got interrupted.

I get you, teachers.

In a week's time, you’ve gone from being overlooked and underpaid, to now finally being recognized as some of the most important players who keep our world spinning.  You're the glitter and the glue.

And I hear you saying, "Right. We knew that, actually. Now can everybody just follow directions so we can get this virus under control and I can have my students back? We've got work to do."

I hear you, teachers. I get you.

You can call it work, but really it's love. You had more loving to do this year, and you thought you had more time.

I can't fix it for you. But I know a thing or two about grief, and there's a lot to be said for naming what is sad and letting it be sad.  So I can sit in the space with you, I can lie awake at night with you on my mind, and I can get up to tell you this: the grief is real and valid and yours.

Grief means you loved well.

Thank you for loving our kids this hard, this much, this well.

9 comments on “The Sadness is Real: An Open Letter to the Teachers”

  1. About a year ago we had friends over for dinner and we were chatting about our grown children , what they do and how they contribute to society . One fellow thought that because his sons operate a gym and that they pay taxes and employ people ,that is how they contribute ..ok..agreed.. We said with pride that our daughter is a teacher... Unbelievably he then asked "what does she contribute " ?? So we replied to them ..She educates your children and grandchildren ! That was the end of the discussion and our friendship.

  2. Thanks for writing this, Tricia. As a 4th grade teacher, I know its truth. At the same time, there are glimmers of blessing. The only communication I have with my students now is through email or posts on Google Classroom, but even so, their personalities shine through. I can see them in my mind when I type my answers, and I know they hear my words of encouragement as I answer their questions and affirm their work. They are learning something valuable about themselves and about their Savior. It’s not an easy lesson, but we are all learning it together.

  3. Thanks for writing this. It verbalizes what I'm feeling as a teacher but couldn't put to words.

  4. Tears leaking out of my eyes right now.... such a great essay. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your talent.

  5. Yes, you described this so well --- I am a retired teacher and I feel sad for the teachers, the parents, the students --- yes, one giant curveball indeed. Grief is happening all over the globe and in so many ways, - but God has got this too! And he will make it all well! The grief all around us is valid and real like you so beatifically described it and we need to recognize it for sure! Thank you my friend for making me more aware of those grieving around me. And thank you for opening my eyes to the hurting hearts around me instead of focusing on my own little disrupted world. I love you! and I so love your words!

  6. Thank you, Tricia. You do indeed know, as you have been there. This uncertainty is unlike anything I could have imagined. I think my students are still in the early stages of grappling with this. But after hearing from our governor again yesterday that we are likely to be out beyond three weeks - I know my seniors are entering into a new realm of "what if". My heart aches for those involved in sports, arts and other things which would be getting ready to climax. And it is all just swept away. Thank you for voicing this for us.

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