In 2018, I was named the Queen Anne’s County Teacher of the Year. It was one of the best nights of my life followed by one of the best years of my life. I was at the height of my professional career. I had never worked harder in my classroom or been more proud of what I was able to provide for my students and what I was able to see them accomplish. I was almost always one of the first teachers who arrived at school, and like most teachers the work continued long into the evening once I arrived home. I felt at the top of my game. I was reviewing current research to implement the best teaching strategies, writing creative lesson plans to engage my students, and busily and happily creating new learning materials daily. I was a teacher first, and everything else second.
And then 2020 arrived. Everything I had ever known about education and teaching was no longer relevant. I went from the top of my career to not knowing how to be a good teacher. All of my schooling and professional development was suddenly rendered useless because we no longer could teach the only way I knew how. I humbly asked for help, and the response I received was “set it up”. I was demoralized, and questioned my worth as a teacher. Thankfully, I worked with a team of teachers who supported each other, and together we found a way to teach our students through the pandemic. How? We did nothing else. We did not have family game nights. We did not watch Netflix. We did not make big dinners for our family. But mostly, we did not sleep. When the school year came to an end, and we were asked to reflect upon it, we told our administration we were proud of what we had accomplished, but our tanks were completely empty. We were traumatized by the workload, the isolation, and the fears associated with COVID-19. The response was to have our commitment questioned, and we were encouraged to consider whether or not we could be positive enough to be leaders the following school year.