You may be thinking that it's you, that if you were better, stronger, a more gifted teacher, a more resilient human being, somehow this year would not be feeling like an uphill slog against a downhill landslide. You may be thinking that somehow you're missing something, failing to catch something, just not getting your best foot forward.
It's not you.
First of all, I can guarantee you it's not just you. I spend a chunk of my days reading education writing from all across the country and the "I can't do this any more" teacher is currently a thriving genre--and it's just the tip of the iceberg. So you are not somehow weaker than all the other cool teachers who are just sailing through this sea of shit.
Second of all, the list of things you didn't sign up for is now longer than the drive-through line at your local understaffed fast food joint. You didn't sign up to teach next to people who don't take the pandemic seriously or surrounded by the children of people who don't take the pandemic seriously. You did not sign up to be regularly vilified for teaching that thing about race that some folks can't explain but they're pretty sure your commie butt is indoctrinating their children with it every day. You didn't sign up to be jerked back and forth by incomplete and rapidly shifting responses to that pandemic that mostly result in half-assed measures that are not remotely reassuring. You did not sign up to be the default villain in whatever tale of woe is a headline today. (To be fair, unless you've been in the classroom for over twenty-some years, you did actually sign up to teach in a country where attempts to murder your students and you are considered the price of freedom, and while they are actually numerically rare, that possibility always hangs over your head--but none of that, unfortunately, is news.) And of course, you can't take a day off without feeling guilty about all the coverage your colleagues have to do because you're not there.
In educationland it is raining, pouring, drenching tubs of water and sleet and hail, and the administrators who are supposed to be putting a roof over your head are either too swamped by the gaping holes in their own roofs, or they're handing you cute little pep talk tissue umbrellas, or reminding you to go build your own self-care roof, or they aren't even trying (there are some out there getting the job done, and you can tell it immediately by how much less stress their teachers are carrying). Meanwhile, too many other people who ought to build the roof over the school, like legislators and leaders and even parents, are heaving buckets of water at you. And the folks who are rooting for public education to fail, to be smashed apart out of visceral hatred or a desire to sell off the parts or a dream of not having to pay taxes to educate Those People--all of those folks are emboldened by the storm and have set their firehoses to full.
You already know a lot of this, but you don't dare to breathe a word of it because you know that you'll just be branded a whiner. That and perhaps the gnawing feeling that it really is your fault that you feel soaked to the bone. Maybe you're imagining it. Maybe it's not so bad.
You're not imagining it.
I'm in no position to tell you whether it's time to get out or not--only you know what you can take. I can say this: I am sure that whatever divine spark, whatever ability tempered by experience and sharpened skills, that lifted you through the classroom in better days is still there. It may be gasping for air, but I believe it's still there, mostly because everything that's making it hard to feel that teacher spark at the bone is a big collection of things that are Not Teaching. And I believe that the pendulum always swings, and that there is another side of All This, and at some point we will come out there and we may find ourselves in a place that doesn't look like the Before Times, but that place will still need schools and teachers. Bottom line--this right now is not forever. I hope you don't quit. But, as I said, only you know how much is too much.
Right now, and on the other side, there will be students who need you, who will benefit from your presence (my twins will be among them). I say this not to guilt you, but to assure you that while you may feel as if you're shoveling jello with a pitchfork, your efforts are not wasted. You are not doing this for nothing. Sometimes it takes all your effort and energy just to keep from moving backwards, but holding that line, or even reducing the amount of ground you give up--that's not nothing. Only you can decide if it's enough, but it's not nothing.
I hope the people who love you are holding you up. I hope the holiday break is helpful. I'm not here to offer advice today. Just to confirm that it's not you.