Well, it’s here: 2021. Hope is here, and so is a Covid vaccine, but I am also cautious and don’t want to get my hopes up.
Work started three weeks ago. It’s hard to look forward to work, as a teacher. A lot feels pretty pointless nowadays. Somedays I wonder, why do we go to school and pretend that what we’re teaching matters? People are literally exhaling and inhaling poison, passing it around from person to person. Puffs of sick. The safest place for us is indoors, except sometimes not even that is safe. Ask teachers, who may or may not take their mask off when they are alone in their classroom. Who knows what’s trolling the HVAC systems in our schools?
Our federal government is trying to turn things around but our local officials have been stripped of the authority to impose restrictions that could very well save us, and people still think masking is a choice and not an obligation. What do we do, then? Go to work, keep doing our job even though people are dying all around us, some of them our own students or families or co-workers? But yeah, let’s go ahead and prepare students for some test at the end of the year. It feels empty. The effect is demoralizing.
On the other hand, I need something to hold onto, to set my sights on. There has to be a purpose to these classes, right? I’d like to think that reading and thinking about the world around us has a purpose, that it’s useful. That books, literature still mean something during this time. Perhaps as a distraction? As a tool to reflect upon our current condition? As a reminder that things can be different?
Maybe school is the distraction. Maybe for the students going to school is like me going to work: something that gives the days coherence. Work gives me some semblance of normalcy, something to look forward to.
So even if it’s seemingly pointless, school can help us mark the passage of time, gives us the feeling that we have grown, that we have changed. That we did not give up.
Perhaps, in the face of selfish education agencies and self-absorbed governors who are competing to be the most pro-business in the nation, going to school and going to work and reading and learning are ways to deal with our frustration and disillusion. In the face of politicians who try again and again to assert that only certain people and certain interests matter, going to school and learning about literature and finding ways to express what we have learned is a bold expression of life and endurance and autonomy.
We have to flex our feeling muscles somehow.