A week before my substitute teaching job I began to feel anxious. It shocked me. I was sure I’d been away from a public school classroom long enough to be past such a visceral reaction. However, walking into a room of students I didn’t know held the same tension and suspense as my full-time teaching job had. From day to day, you never knew what type of behavior might be thrown at you. You also never knew if support would be there or not.
I know teachers out there have had their glasses broken, hands bruised, faces punched and bodies scarred. I know what it’s like to have a “school scar”.
As the day drew nearer, I found the anxious nervousness increasing. What is wrong with me? Did the years of coping with difficult behaviors – without adequate support – really leave such a deep impression?
The day turned out just fine, of course. There was an amazing calm I hadn’t experienced in years inside a public school. I wondered why it was so calm. Some students haven’t returned to school, so the calm might be due to lower numbers. Or perhaps the neediest students – those more likely to act out – haven’t returned. I know the lenient discipline policies haven’t changed. Which means every time I step into a public school, I’ll probably still be nervous.
It’s a strange time to be a substitute teacher.
I ache for my fellow teachers who have surely been through one of the most difficult school years ever, on top of the already existing stressors in schools these days.
Each teacher I talk to is thoroughly exhausted. One major difficulty every school year is getting the schedule just right, yet unbelievably some teachers I know have been through 3-4 major schedule changes within this one school year! Why doesn’t anyone seem to realize the toll it takes on faculty and staff to swing from remote online learning to partially online, to some in person blended with simultaneously teaching in person and online?
Ask a teacher you know about the arduous learning curve required this year to manage online teaching. It’s quite draining to learn new systems and methods on the fly. Also, technology is a good tool, but when it goes haywire stress levels can go through the roof!
Additionally, consider the emotional exhaustion teachers are experiencing. They were denied the joy of greeting eager kids in September. Caring teachers have spent days and nights worrying over the children who’ve never shown up to online class. At this point in the year, teachers are gathering all the energy they can muster to help very weary and upset students make it the finish line.
No thanks to the unions who are resisting a return to in person instruction – they’ve given the public a reason to think teachers are doing nothing. I’m sure there are some lazy teachers somewhere who gave up on even trying this year. But please, think of the majority who haven’t. Remember the majority who disagree with keeping kids out of school. They are more exhausted than ever before. Hats off to the great teachers who’ve been there through thick and thin for students this year. Your effort is not going unnoticed.