Today June 14, 2021 was the final day of the marathon school year that will forever be known to me as the CoVid Years. To separate the last two years would be like asking what would Pinky be like without Brain? Who would Ben be without Jerry? What would peanut butter do if it had never met chocolate those many years ago? The years will be lumped together forever much like the blizzard years of 2006 and 2007 that created the wildest winter experiences of my childhood.
This was an extraordinary time that honestly pulled me toward my limits. We can safely say that most of the world experienced an insane amount of trauma. Due to the lack of fanfare and ending of the 2020 school year and the inability to begin in-person at the beginning of the 2021 school year, education was robbed of endings and beginnings, emotional embraces, a lot of the chances for authentic connections where teachers were able to step out of their teaching roles and meet students who had shed their labeled exoskeleton and enjoy moments as humans sharing time and space with little to no power imbalances. It felt like my spiritual journey had taken me down a path devoid of the emotional connection I so desperately need.
Teaching feeds a part of me that yearns for purpose. The slightest hope that I may have positively impacted someone and that impact can help improve their lives. This June was needed. It helped quench my hypertonic loss of the teaching liquid that is my soul and spirit.
June 2021 brought field day. It was a new field day. A trimmed down smaller version that didn’t seem to bother any students. At the very least the students had a day where they moved with joy. It was perhaps the three hardest days I have worked since I turned 9 and my dad realized he had free labor. It was invigorating though. Students were connecting with each other. Teachers were smiling. We were together. The why was being met. My teaching soul was become hydrated. And also there were rocket pops. What would field day be without popsicles?
June 2021 also brought about the first Pride Parade that I have ever helped organized or participate in. It started with a student’s idea. My principal has the astute ability to hear what students are saying and acting upon their appeals and requests. Two weeks later we had a Black woman who was a member of our staff and the LGBT+ community, Tia Brown, kick off the event with a heartfelt and emotional speech that set the tone of love and pride in who you were. 200-300 students and staff rolled in wearing shirts, holding signs, Philadelphia Pride and pan sexual flags, all there ready to connect with the joy of the occasion. Students made speeches about their families, being an ally, and why their culture matters. The walk was quick. The event seemed rushed. And it was best school event I have ever participated in. The emotion of the day helped raise the level of hope and change in my teaching cistern.
On the last day I saw the tears and hugs. I made my favorite joke about crying as the busses left because I knew I wasn’t getting any more paychecks for two months. There were parties, kids playing outside, laser tag in the woods, balloons, parades, and so much more. It was the celebration we needed. The celebrations that water the soul. Spiritually, I feel better. I saw how the impact that teachers and students had on each other. I saw the concrete results of why we teach.
The work is never done. The road never paved and level. The loops of the roller coaster that is teaching will hopeful be a little less vertiginous in the future. Right now I am just going to decompress for a little. Let the pressure slowly seep out before I worry about next year’s curriculum, schedules, lessons and units. I want to truly appreciate the ability to visualize my why again. To see the bonds that were formed. To be a part of something that put positivity into the world. Teaching is truly a remarkable gift that I was given. Thankfully this June reminded me of that.