I love teaching. I’ve done it for ten years, and it’s become a part of my identity. I’m incredibly proud to say I’m a teacher and that I come from a family of teachers (three aunts, one uncle, one sister, one brother-in-law, and one cousin).
But right now, teachers, and everyone else, are in uncharted waters. I’m supposed to be getting ready for our first day of inservice (Colorado starts early), looking at how many students are in my class, and figuring out when I can use the bathroom throughout the day. But I’m not doing that. I’m not doing any of the things I’ve grown accustomed to for the past decade.
In fact, for the first time in ten years, I won’t be preparing a classroom, meeting new students, or writing funny sentences about how much I hate the Bears because I made the incredibly difficult decision to sit out this year from teaching to make sure my family is as protected as possible. My wife is pregnant and our son is 10 months old, and I wanted to do whatever I could to protect them, and that starts with me not being in a classroom on a daily basis.
I’m incredibly lucky that my family is in a financial state where we can live off a single income (combined with whatever part-time job I can find), but I know many families are not. We were able to analyze the risks and benefits of going back to school and decided the negatives outweigh the positives.
My school district intends to get back to in-person learning as soon as possible, which I fully understand. In-person learning is the best for kids. Period. But in-person learning is also creating an extraordinary amount of exposure for everyone involved that I wasn’t comfortable with. Our high school has 1,800 students, over 100 teachers, and, combined with the secretaries, kitchen staff, and custodians, a population of around 2,000 people a day. With that many people in one place, it was a daily exposure risk I wasn’t ready to make.
My wife and I have been going back and forth on this decision for a couple weeks now. We wondered about the financial impact, changing insurance in the middle of a pregnancy, and what I would do with myself all day long, especially since I’ve been employed or in school full-time since I’ve been about 12.
But once the decision was made and my district made it clear that they would return to in-person learning as soon as they are able, I knew this year wasn’t for me. I only tell you this because I hope people realize how nervous, anxious, or even scared some teachers may be about this year and what difficult decisions are ahead for teachers and families. We all want in-person learning but just because we want something doesn’t mean we should get it. I wanted the Bears to draft Deshaun Watson, but we saw how that turned out.
Eventually, the world will get back to some semblance of normalcy where we talk about that crazy time when we had to wear masks in Target and didn’t go to a movie theater for a year, but that time isn’t here just yet.
But there is a bright side to this. I get to spend the next 12 months with my son, who is just the best thing ever. I will get to spend around eight months with my daughter, who will also be the best thing ever. My wife gets to spend 12 months with me, which I am sure she is excited about.
I’m incredibly lucky to have this time with my kids while being a stay-at-home dad. We will get to do tons of fun activities like take walks around our neighborhood, or play in the front yard, or maybe play in the backyard, or watch Daniel Tiger. OK…I guess COVID activities aren’t as fun as non-COVID activities, but it’ll still be fun.
But I’ll miss teaching. It never felt like a job because I enjoyed being there. I enjoy the connections I make while teaching and doing a job that I feel really helps people. There are parts I won’t miss (grading 80 essays in a weekend) but those are few and far between. I’ll miss helping students become better writers and having discussions about important issues in their lives. I’ll miss working with my colleagues and making them laugh in a meeting where we shouldn’t be laughing. I’ll miss trying something new in the classroom and seeing what I can do to be a better teacher for my students. I know I’ll get to do it again but this will be a weird conclusion to the weirdest year of my life.
I didn’t come to this decision lightly, but it’s a decision I know is right for my family. I hope everyone going back to school this fall has a safe school year, and I hope next fall we are just talking about how much I hate the Bears instead of how safe it is to be back in school.