2020 has been a year rife with heartbreak and hardships. I mean, it got to the point where my mind permitted itself to focus on one thought, and not eight. The only way I got through the year was finding who my pillars were, and reconnecting with those I lost touch with. Working with new students and colleagues in the teaching world, allowed me to live in a little bubble that was my classroom. Although the desks were appropriately spaced, masks were mandatory and the traditional teaching model was disrupted, I have never felt more close to a group of students. It wasn’t until a month into teaching that I realized, I have never seen my students without their masks on. I had to rely on their body language, raised eyebrows and eye movements to build that relationship; it was a new form of communication. I desperately craved to be needed, to be asked how to solve questions and write better. But I struggled to advocate for collaboration and group work when those forms of teaching, required physical closeness. Without that, I wasn’t sure how to teach effectively.

How could I get my students to respond to one another in a way that would be meaningful?

In my experience, students have thrived on small group instructions and the dialogue that comes with it is often immeasurable. 5 minutes before the bell rang, we would engage in conversations about our weekends or silly things guinea pigs do. We now spent it sanitizing our hands, wiping down our desks and making sure others were doing it as well. I lost those 5 minutes to engage in what people might consider ‘menial’ or ‘small talk’ – but those exchanges humanized all of us. My students were losing a sense of purpose, I was losing the motivation to teach. What was the point? Some day none of this is going to matter.

On days that I was less preoccupied with work, and productivity occured in the early mornings and late evenings, I spent it flittering about. It became living like I had pass the best before and stretching myself to the expiration, without realizing how far I needed to stretch. It was the anticipation that I would wake up one day and realize, it was the day.  It takes working through the tears and frantic hands to come to realization of what it is exactly I need. In that one moment, sometimes it’s as simple as a glass of water. Other times, it’s a pile of blankets and a dark room. It was that in-between: nothing is really wrong, but nothing feels right either. It had to be an either or; self-depreciation is underrated.

The very essence of being vulnerable, allowed me to see beyond what was happening at the surface. It wasn’t that I had procrastinated, or surprised to find emails that I should have sent weeks ago, it was what happened during those days that allowed me to slip so far. The fact that I was unable to freely teach the way I had always known, and had stubbornly given up, was hard to grapple with. But my students didn’t know, they just hated math, in all forms.

So that’s where I’m at. A struggling luddite, trying to go against the grain but is forced to veer the other way. We’ll see what happens next.

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