Reliving last school year, with joy

As I rested on my feet in front of them, my heart swelled with excitement. I could barely contain myself. I stood erect, scanned the room, and took a deep breath, relishing every pair of eyes that found mine. I spent all of last year chasing this moment and now it was finally mine.

For the students, I’m not sure how they met the moment. I saw some squinted eyes and pinched dimples, which made me think they were smiling beneath their masks, but I wasn’t sure. I was their teacher last year by name and nothing else. There were so many variables in our virtual classroom that I can hardly take credit for anything productive or meaningful that may have happened.

Yet there we were. Together in a classroom with me as their teacher. The moment was created by my colleague Mr. S, our school’s hardworking Precalculus teacher. He was standing in the doorway when I walked by his classroom earlier today. The students were having a hard time solving trigonometric equations. He casually asked if I wanted to step in for some impromptu direct instruction to help them remember how to factor. Nearly burning myself with the hot tea I was holding, I skipped into the room before he could rescind his invitation. At the right place at the right time, I had just won the lottery. Mr. S was clueless as to what he just unleashed.

I went on to teach them how to factor trinomials for an unbelievable five minutes. It was fun and spirited and full of heart. I’d like to believe that I firmly held their attention and left them in a better place than I found them. I paused several times for some lively call-and-responses, which sent echoes around the room of the call-and-response virtual handshakes we made last year. I singled out specific students by name with an “I see you!” and “Let’s go!” My dry erase marker mirrored the synergy of the room, sliding rhythmically across the whiteboard in a way I haven’t felt all year. It danced in my hand, full of life. The excitement and anticipation grew with every line of work. After the final step, the room erupted in applause. I put the lid back on the marker. Sadly, there had to be an end.

I see many of these kids around school all the time and have even stepped into this particular class before, but those five minutes were something different. I wasn’t just showing my face, I was their teacher again. But this time we shared space. There were nods to reciprocate and daps to give. When I skipped into the room and was given the steering wheel, I relived an entire school in five minutes. This time, however, it was filled with joy. I finally know what it’s like to teach these students.

As I exited the room, I was euphoric and unusually satisfied. I felt many of the cold, dark memories from last year rush back only to be confronted with this brighter, warmer memory that was just created. The endless Zoom links, the silence of breakout rooms, and my empty calls for participation in the chat all flashed before me as I picked up my tea and headed to my classroom to prep for the rest of my day. I remembered the heartache of last year, but smiled because I had today. The pent-up love that was forged during remote learning has now been dispensed to its rightful owners.

Later in the day, I found Mr. S and thanked him several times over for his openness and spontaneity. I don’t think he knows how much it means to me.


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