Saying Goodbye from Six Feet Apart

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As a public school teacher, I had to close the door to my classroom two weeks ago. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that the year would end this way. The week before Spring Break, we began to realize that things were getting more serious. We discussed, A LOT, the importance of washing our hands. A coworker had to cancel a long-planned trip to Ireland. By Wednesday, we were putting together information for E-Learning, a task which my district had not yet done before. By Thursday evening, we were told Spring Break would begin early, and from there, it fell apart.
Moving into quarantine was hard. Attempting to manage E-Learning, a task my peers and I had never done before, was difficult. Being home by myself and trying to balance work while keeping my two little boys entertained was nearly impossible. But saying goodbye to my students via a Google Hangouts chat was quite possibly the hardest task I was forced to do.

I’m going to be really upfront with you: we aren’t in this for the money (gasp!) It isn’t possible, in my opinion, to be a teacher and not love your job. It is extremely difficult, but also extremely rewarding. We may not love all the policies or expectations, but we adore your children, even the ones who really keep us on our toes. In not seeing our students every day, we also carried a burden of worry on our shoulders. Do they have enough to eat? Are they worried about the toll this is taking on their families? Do they feel safe? When a child is in class with us, we can be sure that we are doing what we can to meet the spectrum of their needs and work with the home caregiver to assist in any way possible. Letting go of that honored responsibility was a struggle for each educator I spoke with. We believe each child is placed into our classroom for a reason, and we learn just as much from them as they do from us. They each hold a special place in our hearts, and not being able to finish out the year as we normally do was devastating. Field Day, award ceremonies, graduations…passing each day knowing what we should have been doing was trying. As much as you probably wished your child was at school, we wished for it also.

In my district, we gathered everyone’s belongings into individual trash bags and took them out the curb in carts the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. To maintain social distancing, we spread ourselves out and sat in lawn chairs as children approached at a safe distance with their parents to pick up their items. It was quite possibly the most emotional experience I’ve had as a teacher. Every one of my students seemed older, maybe because of the stress this situation has put on everyone, or maybe just because they were missing a tooth, or their hair was longer. As they grabbed their bag, we ended the 2019-2020 school year with a quick wave and shouted a “Goodbye!” from 6 feet apart. Most definitely not how I envisioned it.

The summer is a nice break from the stress of E-Learning, for both you as a parent and myself as a teacher. I am unsure about what will happen from here. I long to be in my classroom. As a mama, my oldest will start kindergarten this year, and I fear that it won’t be in “brick and mortar” as it has been described. I do know and trust that our educational leaders will do what they can to protect our children while trying to create some sense of normalcy. There are many unknowns, but one thing is for sure: we will be so happy to see your child walk through our classroom doors, whenever that may be.

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Kate is a born and bred Hoosier, who has planted roots on the Southside. She and her husband are the proud parents of two rambunctious little boys. They have the privilege of raising their toddlers out in the country, where she enjoys a bit of a slower pace of life. Kate graduated from IUPUC in 2009 with a degree in Elementary Education and is a second grade teacher. When she isn't busy wrangling toddlers, she loves reading, writing, and working on her latest adventure: running. She strongly believes that no Mama should feel alone, and enjoys writing honestly about being a wife and a Mommy, and all the adventures it brings.

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