Forgive the huge title, but I just can’t express the nature of this blog in any shorter or easier way. This year of “unprecedented, uncertain, unexplored, uncharted” experiences, has one more for me: how do you make it as Teacher of the Year in the middle of a pandemic?
First of all, just let me say that being selected as teacher of the year for my school is the greatest honor I can achieve. Any teacher who tells you that they don’t want to be teacher of the year is lying. Being Teacher of the Year is the educator’s Academy Award. And as you can see, the hardware is a whole lot cooler!
So, we’ve established: I wanted to be Teacher of the Year. I just never visualized it in quite this way before. Because to be Teacher of the Year on a normal year means honors and acknowledgement and recognition at graduation…along with the cool hardware. You are confident in your skills and you know just what to do in acknowledging the honor.
Now let’s cut to this year. I am going along, teaching my classes, boring some, inspiring others and generally lighting little fires under all of them…face-to-face, in the same old, teacher of the year way. Until the Pandemic hit. Suddenly, life has a whole new edge and so does the so-called Teacher of the Year.
While we were still in school, the Teacher of the Year was yanking her pens, paper, stapler, tape, you name it, out of the hands of startled students yelling, “I’ll do it! Don’t touch it!” And then taking the fore-named article over to the container by the door to douse them in hand sanitizer, while the unimpressed students were wondering to themselves just when the old girl had gone around the bend. Not very noble or sharing, but quite the germ-fighting strategy.
In addition, there was that added layer of Teacher of the Year finesse displayed every time a student coughed or sneezed. “I want that boy out of here, he just coughed for third time this week, and I’m convinced he’s infected!” Somehow, you might have expected the teacher of the year to be a little more sympathetic and a lot less pathetic, but the times, they are a-changing.
Now we come to that plague even greater than the coronavirus: remote learning. The teacher of the year is now reduced to sending out mind-numbingly long e-mails begging for those assignments not yet handed in…no, not from this week–you’re missing the one that I assigned a month ago–before school got out? Check the instructions I very carefully laid out for you in the remote classroom site! What? They’re not there? Hang on a minute!
Then, there are the endless videos. Until this pandemic struck, I had never videoed myself in any classroom environment because the wiggling and squirming I have to do to watch myself on film was just too painful. It does not become the Teacher of the Year. No matter, suddenly, I making videos on how to join classroom discussions or how to sew on buttons…”okay, you knot that thread like this, oops, that didn’t work, well, let’s try again…for the fourth time.” In case you’re interested, this year’s Teacher of the Year never did get it right!
I know there are many things out there much more difficult than having to navigate the waters of Teacher of the Year in a year where every teacher was pretty much teacher of the year…I just can’t think of any right now. So, I’ll put my beautiful hardware on the shelf where it catches the most sun, I’ll bask in the pleasure of receiving the honor and I will always remember it as unique. But if you see me standing stock still, looking out, as if at a large audience and smiling and nodding, you will know that I am envisioning the applause I would have received at graduation had those poor seniors had a normal one. Hey, even the Teacher of the Year can dream, right?