This year, I switched schools in the midst of a pandemic. While it has allowed me to feel more effective as a special educator, it also came with a new set of challenges. I went from teaching all subjects in 4th and 5th grade self-contained in a rural area to teaching reading, math, and organization/study skills to approximately thirty 9th-11th graders who all come with their individual sets of needs. To top that, the district ensured to apply the two Ps: pressure and performance. Needless to say, it has been a disaster.
The pandemic has already affected our very nature. Humans, by nature, are creatures of habit and creatures who need socialization. Millions of persons are now forced to (or have chosen to for safety reasons) work from home. Many have even lost their jobs. Students everywhere were forced to go into a new normal. Forget seeing their friends, extended family, or even their teachers. We decided that it was okay to sit them in front of technology 24/7. And because the whole goal of education in South Carolina is to make students “college and career ready”, the need for performance was on.
Everywhere, all levels of students continue to take district and state assessments, are forced to learn exorbitant amounts of information in shorter amounts of time, all while feeling the pressures of wanting to succeed from their parents, their families, and themselves. Teachers continue to have to perform miracles in a virtual Hell. We are micromanaged, underfunded, and most importantly underpaid. Observations continue, the show must go on, and the performance must be great! From my observations of my students and fellow teachers, there has been an increase in symptoms similar to depression and anxiety. Many breakdowns, angry outbursts, and losses of motivation have occurred.
Instead of grace being extended, both students and teachers alike are being forced to perform normal duties during an unprecedented time. Pressure bursts pipes and this result has shown. Teachers calling out sick or leaving schools in the middle of the year. Students having meltdowns at night and forcing smiles by day. Most simply just giving up and hoping to survive another day COVID free. And of course, systemic racism in the education system does not forget to rear its head. Black students up against white teachers who could not give a damn if they succeeded or not. Black students tears being silenced and white tears being heard.
I don’t have one.
With love and exhaustion,