The hopelessness is setting in.

For two months I’ve tried to be optimistic, but we face disappointment after disappointment.

The first month we held onto the hope that school would re-open and life would go back to “normal.” We hoped our government leaders would act quickly with plans to take care of people, prevent more deaths, and get a solution in the works.

As Stay-at-Home orders were extended, we tried to stay positive with Zoom meetings and creating silly videos to send to friends. We tried to find new ways to make happy moments.

As the third month of this has started, I’m losing all hope.

Last night Eddie wept–again, for the third time this week–about the loss of 5th grade. His brain trying to wrap around all that he is losing out on.

Charlie has gotten practically manic. He needs recess and gym class and sports and friends. His mood swings have gotten almost unbearable. He needs his therapist, but won’t do teletherapy because, like the rest of us, he is burnt out on screen chatting.

Alice misses other people and playing with kids–and girls–her own age. She misses teachers and daycare. She is acting out with her voice–so much yelling and screaming and crying. What is really happening is she is grasping to control her world.

And I am tying to teach. Ha.

This is not teaching. This is some weird data output/input job. Each Sunday night I put out a video–that I hope will engage students and humanize it all by seeing me–to explain the week’s assignment. All week I check in to grade work as it comes in and make comments hoping to keep kids coming back to the work.

Each week has less turned in.

One class of 30 students had only three assignments done as of today (Friday).

And the disappointments and uncertainty keep rolling in.

It would be one thing if we could say, “just get through this, and in the fall we will be back to school as usual.”

But everything is pointing to no, no it won’t. The Michigan Education Association sent out a survey about teaching opinions about what going back to school will look like: more distance learning, more sanitation, staggered schedules, social distancing, and smaller class sizes were all topics.

But guess what–Michigan’s education budget is funded almost entirely by sales tax. Back during the recession at the end of GW Bush’s presidency and the beginning of Obama’s–Michigan’s biggest cuts to the education budget was 7%. Due to COVID19 affecting the closing of our economy, we are currently looking at a possible 20-25% budget cut.

That does not equal more staff for smaller classes. Those numbers say loss of programs (fine arts, electives, specials), staff, and extracurriculars.

One question asked if the COVID19 situation made us consider leaving the profession. I answered “no,” but wrote in the comments that leaving the profession is not a viable option for me, but I am incredibly unhappy because this is not best practice. This is NOT teaching.

Right now, I am supposed to be working on a presentation that I will be giving via Zoom for a conference that was supposed to be held at UNLV in June. Everything I have to share is for in-person learning. I feel like withdrawing from the conference.

Who can use in-person professional development right now? No one.

I keep seeing so many posts about teachers and educators being heroes–how we have McGuyver-ed this distance learning thing while on a sinking ship and somehow got it to work. How we are inspiring.

I feel like NONE of those things. I feel like we created a really cute band-aid to try to keep a severed limb attached. Amputation is going to be necessary, but we are pretending the My Little Pony glitter band-aid we put on it is heroic and working.

Don’t get me wrong–teachers are working so hard. Probably harder now than when we are in school. I like the Apollo 13 comparison. We are trying to create a fix mid-flight so we can land this school year safely. But Apollo 13 could never fly again–and we can’t fly this same plan in the fall.

What do we do?

I keep promising Alice and Charlie that next year will be awesome. She will be in Kindergarten and he will be in 3rd grade! They will be in the same school, riding the bus together! Charlie will be an upper-el kid with a new playground!

But will they?

I tell Eddie that middle school will be so great! So many new opportunities and friends to be made! And band!

But will those things be available?

And what about me? What about my students?

What can we do but sit and watch leadership argue and put their political party before the people they are supposed to work for? Political and monetary gain before lives?

The “American Individualism” that people are so proud of is literally killing our country.

What can we even do?

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.