The 2019-2020 school year has been quite a time to be an educator! This has certainly been a memorable school year for everyone involved. We went from griping about not getting any snow days to being sent home to finish the school year online for the rest of the academic year. At first, I think we were all a bit excited about an unexpected break. Two weeks of teaching from home would make up for not having any snow days this school year! But then, we watched apprehensively as two weeks turned into a month – and a month turned into the rest of the school year.

Now, if you do not work in education, you may be wondering why teachers are so upset about not going back to the physical school building. I mean, after all, we still get to work, and, for many of us, the hours we’re required to work are fewer (no one needs to monitor the cafeteria these days). In response to that question, comment, or thought, I respond yes. Yes, I agree. Yes, you are right. We feel so, so fortunate to be able to continue working with our students during this unprecedented and strange time. It is nice to eat a quiet and unhurried lunch (actually I have a toddler so I take that back). We are grateful. We are fortunate.

And yet, beyond all the gratitude we feel, we as educators still feel sad. We are sad because teaching is so much more than a job. For many of us, teaching is the lifestyle that we have chosen. We miss interacting with our students. We miss having them pop in to our office to ask a question. We miss watching their faces as they work through problems and when they experience the “lightbulb” moment of understanding. We miss spontaneous conversations with colleagues that encourage, inspire, and teach us. We feel sadness for our students – the ones missing out on trips and the fun extracurricular activities they had been looking forward to and the graduations they had expected.

And so, armed with our sadness and our gratitude, we will take this situation and make the best of it. We are educators – it’s what we are trained to do! We know how to adapt and we know how to build enthusiasm.  So we will do just that. We will turn our spare bedrooms into classrooms. We will research every possible tool to enhance our online lessons. We will teach to our virtual classrooms with as much gusto and passion as we did in the traditional classroom. We will find ways to keep our students engaged. From afar, we will teach them – encourage them – and help them through this interesting season of life. We will do this because we are educators – we love what we do and we love who we do it with.

Recently, I began taking Hebrew lessons. A Hebrew-speaking friend wanted to learn Spanish and suggested we trade skills, taking turns teaching each other. I thought it was a wonderful idea and agreed. I am currently working my way through the alphabet (completely new to me) and the different sounds that particular dots make when used with the letters. It is challenging to know so little about something that seems like it should be so simple – an alphabet! Over the last few months as I’ve worked through the  Aleph-Bet song, singing it again and again with my son, and, as I’ve stumbled through memorization and phonics practice, I’ve realized that I’m learning so much more than just Hebrew. This new adventure has also gifted me the opportunity to remember the joy and vulnerability of being a student. It has reminded me that sometimes, no matter how well you thought you knew something, you can forget it. It has helped me to feel, once again, the warmth of an encouraging remark from a teacher. My Hebrew lessons have allowed me to learn an exciting new language and culture, yes, but they have truly given me so much more. They have given me a chance to be the student again, a gift that I know will cause more empathy, grace, and appreciation as I interact with my own students in the classroom.