We're at the end of another road, another 180-day road trip over the Mountain of Education, and this is always a hard part of the year.
Teaching is about building relationships, creating a little classroom community. I've seen memes that call it like creating a little family, and I'm not sure I'd go quite that far. But whatever connections are built in the course of the year, once the school year crosses the finish line, all of those connections are done. At end of the year, teachers have to say goodbye.
We know that the end of a relationship is hard. Adults do it now and then, and it's almost never easy. More like a little mini bout of grief and loss. Teachers do that every year, with between twenty and two hundred young humans.
It's also the Season of the Second Guess. Did I cover enough? Did I get them ready for the next thing? Could I have done more for those students that were less successful? Should I have covered X instead of Y? Did I miss too many chances to give a student a needed boost? Was I pre-occupied and thoughtless at the moment I could have made a critical difference? Was I enough?
Could I have done more, or done better? It's always a tough question to grapple with, because the answer is always "Yes."
That can only be worse in a year like this one. in which students carried gigantic steamer trunks full of challenges and hurts and missed opportunities left over from last year's pandemess (and the year's before that), and then they had to process more terrible news from this year, and teachers had to try to manage all that in the midst of unprecedented levels of public attacks on teachers (They're slackers! They're indoctrinators! They're groomers! They're teaching that thing that I can't really explain, but oh boy is it bad! They're terrible at their jobs, but maybe we should make them carry guns!).
And while many teachers are talking about this (some on their way out the door), most are not, because being a teacher means trying not to talk about the hard parts of your job, because then people will just say you're whining.
It's just a tough time in a tough year.
So, teachers, I have this to say to you.
Thank you for pushing forward as best you could every day. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for trying to watch out for your students. Thank you for teaching and teaching and keeping on with the business of teaching, getting those students to grow in skills and knowledge and humanity, even when they came to you missing part of their foundation in everything from knowledge and skills to just remembering how to do school.
Thank you for pushing on even when you felt as if you were pushing through a dark and trackless land. Thank you for every day when you gave something at school that you had hoped to save for your own home.
Thank you continuing even on the days when it seemed as if so many people wanted to tell you how wrong you were, but didn't want to pitch in to help.
Thank you for all the hours that you poured into the work. Thank you for every small victory you scored, and for coming back after every defeat.
Thank you for putting your heart on the line.
Thank you for standing up. Thank you for hanging in. Thank you for pressing past all the endless Other Stuff to do the core of the work--the teaching. You students know so much more now than they did a year ago, and that's not nothing. Thank you for that.
For every one of you who stood watch over the rising up of parents' beloved young humans, thank you.
For every one of you who stayed to do the job, thank you (and for those of you who didn't, I get it, and thank you, too).
There is a special kind of drained exhaustion that comes at the end of a school year. May the summer fill you back up, and may the coming weeks bring you back in touch with everything that helps you feel the joy and beauty of being your best self, of being fully human in the world.