21 Years in 950 Words

Here is where I stand. Am I standing alone?

I have taught for 21 years.

I love my job and I’m good at it. I have a Master’s in Music Education and I have been a National Board Certified teacher since 2007. I teach choral music and I take pride in having excellent classroom management and student engagement with classes that have been as large as 92 students and as small as 8.

I don’t go to my administrators with problems, I go to them with solutions. I am a team player, a mentor, and a teacher’s teacher. I love inspiring and changing lives.

But I can’t do this:

Imagine that Kid A decides that it would be funny to say that he has COVID-19 and coughs. Kid B turns and punches Kid A. Kid C retreats into a corner of the room and cries in terror and refuses to move. Kid D pulls out his phone and texts his mom that he has been exposed and to come and get him. Kid E pulls out her Lysol and sprays everyone. Kid F has an asthmatic reaction to the Lysol and removes his mask to catch his breath. Kid G threatens to retaliate against Kid F if he doesn’t put his mask back on. Kid H runs out into the hallway to escape it all. And the teacher…. well, depending on the teacher, he/she has the exact same reaction as of one of kids B-H OR he/she miraculously gets the class back in order but exhausts all of his/her mental energy and forgets to take extra precautions when the children leave. Ultimately, the teacher takes the dangers of exposure home to his/her family.

It…will…happen.

I am the teacher that would probably kick in with all of my wits to pull this class back in order. But, after 21 years, I must say that I personally know of different teachers that would react just as kids B-H and, unfortunately, a few that would even be Kid A.

It …will…happen.

MOST teachers are going to give their all to make it work in the classroom. We are resourceful, we are gifted, we are optimistic, we are generous, and our love for others is endless!

In a few weeks, thousands of teachers are going to go the extra mile to add “COVID-19 Precautionary Personnel” to their unofficial list of duties. There will be no training. There will be no support beyond hand sanitizer and gloves. And they will ultimately pay the price.

It…will…happen.

Even on normal school days, I am physically, emotionally, and mentally drained when I go home. When I consider factoring in the anxiety of the threat of this disease, I cannot promise my family that I will return home at the end of the day as a stable wife and mother.

I am not a doctor or a nurse. My prayers are with them every day. I thank God wholeheartedly for their service. I wear my mask and I have not socialized or been in a crowd since March. I don’t want to be in the number that they have to care for, but I am unnecessarily being thrown into the mix!

When I said good-bye to my students on March 13th for spring break, I went home and I started researching ways to teach my class online. I believe I learned more in the last quarter of this past school year than I had learned in almost 20 years of teaching.

I checked on all of my students daily. I listened to, read, graded, and gave feedback on EVERY assignment. I actually worked harder virtually than I did in my classroom because I wanted Choir to be the safe haven it has always been for so many students. I wanted students to know I was there for them, and that we would get through it together.

Just keep singing!

I have stood as a mother figure for hundreds of children. So many call me “mom”. But now, I know where I stand in society. In spite of the lives I have touched and changed with the gift of music, I am nothing more than a glorified babysitter! I am essential to the very rich who need the parents of my students to go to work. My job is just a step in the ladder that allows the rich to get richer and the poor to get sicker.

I understand the need for educational and social growth in children – I have two children of my own. I also understand that my grandparents did not finish high school, but they owned houses and land – I own an expensive cell phone and a laptop to type this post.

I am not bitter. I am heartbroken. Who will speak for me?

I don’t want to risk anyone’s life to go to school right now. I want to teach, but I need to be at home. We ALL need to be home – just a little while longer. If I CAN teach from home and save lives, then what is the debate?

I COULD control Kid A with the infamous “look”, all while convincing Kid C that it is okay to come out of the corner, but the truth of the matter is that conditions are not safe, and Kids A-H should be at home. No one is ready for the chaos of schools opening up in a few weeks. Especially teachers.

Education and growth are relative. We cannot do things normally when our normal is new.

I love to teach, but I love my family more. And I pray that I did not just sum up my 21 years of teaching in 950 words.

There will be no “Little POW-wow” or “Tune My Heart” segments today. Please just pray with me.

Traci D. Fuller, Pearls and Pretty Pens © 2020

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