Today was the last day of school. Well, yesterday was my last day on campus. I took this picture right before I left for the day, although this could’ve been taken any day this year.
This year was sad, lonely, ridiculous, stupid, comical, frustrating, stressful. This year was something.
I never got the chance to meet my senior English students in person. I don’t even know if I’d recognize them at the supermarket. They were foreheads, ceiling fans, black circles with initials. There were some who never came to class (yes, even virtually) and then there were some who were my go-to students for reading, answers and insight. There were some who were constantly late with assignments and then there were some who were overachievers and were always early. There were some who asked me the same questions on repeat and never paid attention to a thing I said, posted, texted or emailed. There were some I was glad I only had to deal with virtually and then there were some who I wish I had spent the year with in-person.
I had a handful of my Intro to Journalism students on campus. Even with warm bodies in the room, it was as if (sometimes) I was there alone. There were no real conversations, no bonding or relationships formed. I spoke to the whole class as if they were all virtual because I wasn’t going to teach the same class of students two different ways. Just like with the seniors, they were foreheads, ceiling fans, black circles with initials. Journalism is my bread and butter. I love English, but I truly LOVE journalism. I teach the hell out of it, and I’m really good, too. Definitely worth the price of admission. I don’t feel that any of my students got the best version of Mrs. Lerner that they would’ve in a normal year. I was also sad because so many of my journalism students were friends with my son, so I know them on a different, more personal level.
I spent most days alone in my room, talking to my computer. If you had asked me how I thought I’d spend my 19th year of teaching, it wouldn’t have been like this. I came to work without makeup every day. I wore yoga pants, t-shirts and sneakers with my hair in a messy top bun. I came in at 7:15 and left at 2:45. I didn’t grade work at home, and really didn’t want to grade work while at school. I felt completely unmotivated to do my job. For someone who feeds off of an audience and human interaction, it’s hard to perform to an empty house. I’d give my best material and award-winning performances, and they’d all fall flat. No laughter. No reaction. No acknowledgement. Nothing.
I told my therapist at some point during the year that I didn’t like my job much anymore. We both agreed that these feelings were situational and temporary. It’s hard to do something that brings you no joy. I realize that it’s not entirely fair to say I didn’t like my job. I didn’t like my job under these circumstances. I know that next year will be different. We shouldn’t wish our time away, but I would’ve given anything to hit fast-forward through the 2020-2021 school year.
When school resumes in August, I will begin my 20th year of teaching. Twenty years. My second decade. It certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing this for that long. During my first 19 years, I have gotten married and had two children. I have educated well over 4,000 students at three different schools. I have attended 15 graduations and proms. I have advised three publications, as well as the Classes of 2008 and 2014. I have mentored new teachers, and won both personal and professional awards and honors. I have traveled and made lifelong friends. I have inspired others and been inspired, as well. I have survived a school shooting. I have marched, protested, used my voice, wrote a book (“Parkland Speaks“) and worked to make the world a better place.
I don’t know what the next 20 years hold in store for me. I know that, for now, I’m on summer vacation. I’m so glad this school year is behind me… never to rear it’s ugly head around here again.