COLUMN: Sudden end to school also tough for teachers

(Illustration by Salena McAlarney)

By Jackie Abrams

A loss occurred this week when Gov. Charlie Baker announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. You felt it for your children, but there is something you might not know: Your children’s teachers are grieving also. 

See, each August they memorize the class list or write out the name tags and wonder who these people might be. They get excited to meet them and have already practiced writing out your child’s name multiple times before they even enter school. It’s fun for them when your child actually walks through the door into the classroom and they put a face to the name.

The beginning is rough. Your children’s teachers are still missing their students from last year and feel that pang when they pass former students in the hallway. They almost have to convince themselves that they will like this group too. They have parent conferences eventually and report out a little bit about how your child is doing academically and what they need to work on.

Then, all of a sudden one day something happens. Some switch flips. “Your” children become “our” children, and the stuff our children need to work on now becomes what keeps them up at night. They desperately want to see your child succeed and they look forward to when Monday rolls around and they hear all the stories from the weekend. They notice the farmer’s tans and know who spent the weekend out on the softball field. And they notice when one of “our children” walks in one Monday in a different way. No words will be exchanged and yet they will know they need to call that student out in the hallway for a minute to see what’s going on.

Your children will memorize the details of their teachers’ lives and share them at home. The names of their pets, their hobbies, and their dislikes will all be part of dinner conversation. And your children’s teachers will talk about your children at home to their people. Over time, your child’s teachers grow to love your child — even as they realize they only have him or her for borrowed time. 

Spring rolls around and by now your children’s teachers know the days are limited but that they can also loosen up a bit. They can just enjoy your children a bit and not have to push so hard. They can strengthen the bond in those final months because they know they will need closure. Your children’s teachers always know they will have to give them back eventually, have to let them go. But, we plan for 180 days to be able to do that. 

So, this week your children’s teachers’ hearts broke at the news that the year of in-person teaching is done. You have your children forever. They only have them for a little while and they cherish that time. It ended too abruptly and without the closure we all come to expect. So, as you grieve the sudden and unprecedented end of the school year, know that you are not alone. Know that they are rooting for your children, always. Know that they realize now more than ever that schools were never just a place to learn, but a place to grow. 

Jackie Abrams is a member of the Abington School Committee and a teacher in Canton.

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