This Is So Hard

On Monday I won’t meet with my 3rd graders virtually. Instead, I’ll have 8 hours to pack up my classroom for summer cleaning. I should note that never once, in 21 previous years of teaching, have I managed to pack my classroom up in one day. Never. And it’s never looked like this by the time I was really packing.

So that’s feeling a tad bit overwhelming. My school has done a ton to help with this, completely minimizing much of what we usually do at the end of the year. They’ve gotten boxes for us to use. They’ve gotten bags for us to put our students’ things in. There’s no long checklist for end-of-the-year stuff. That helps. But not as much as one might think. This task feels huge beyond words.

And it feels awful. When I walked out of that room on Thursday, March 12th, I thought there was a chance we wouldn’t be back the next day. I sent my kids home with book after book, just in case. But I didn’t dream we wouldn’t be back for the rest of the year. That I wouldn’t see these kids again in person.

When I go in on Monday the physical task of packing will be the big job. But the emotional tasks of coping with school ending this way, even as I have another month of virtual time with my students, are even bigger. I know that what I’m feeling right now is situational depression. This fog I’m in, this inability to see any sun in the future. It won’t last forever. I will feel better. But right now I feel flattened.

When I close that door on Monday at 4:30 pm will I feel better? Will that process have done anything to improve how I am coping with this situation? I don’t know. Maybe. I’m certain it won’t be a panacea.

The reality is this year has been tougher than any I’ve ever known. I missed almost two months with my students in the winter. I was barely back for a month before this hit. I did the math and I think I was in the classroom with my students 94 days this year. That’s barely half of the school year.

I hate it.

I love these kids. They’re brilliant, resilient, creative, thoughtful, generous, and hilarious. I miss getting to spend my days learning with them. They’ll have other teachers and I’ll have other students but I think I will always be a little bitter about how I was cheated of this time with them.

4 replies on “This Is So Hard”

  1. fishstory says:

    So much love. <3 Thank you for all you do to care for and advocate for your students — this post is just a reminder of how deep that care and advocacy run. But, also, I just want to say that I'm sure you have made a HUGE impact on your students this year, even if your classroom time has been curtailed. They are SO lucky to have had you there to help them through this crisis — and to help them learn to build their resilience. I guarantee, they will always remember that and take it with them.

    • jenorr says:

      Thank you. I appreciate these words and the reminder of the good from the year. It’s so hard to see right now, at least for me, so I’m grateful for the help.

  2. Steve Goldberg says:

    I agree with fishstory — your students will always remember this year, and I’m sure that you made every one of those 94 days count. That may not help the bitterness, but it’s the truth. And I bet you end up keeping in touch with a good number of them over the summer.

    • jenorr says:

      Thank you, Steve. One of the downsides of being an elementary school teacher is that we often lose track of our students over the years, especially when one teaches a fairly transient population as I always have. I’ll try to hold on to the optimism you’re sharing here.

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