I got dressed today. I had an incredible desire to feel like nothing’s changed. Like - if I got dressed, I could go to school. Grab a coffee. Talk to my friends. Start the day and see my favorite teenagers. Talk to all of them - laugh and make jokes. Talk about all the things we’re doing to keep ourselves sane. I would tell them how proud I am of them and the ways they’ve carried themselves this year and how the love they’ve given hasn’t gone unnoticed.
I got dressed today. I thought I could magically see them in person and not through a screen. I wanted to feel close to them. To feel like everything would be as it has been. To feel encouraged. To feel normal. To see for myself that they’re taking care of themselves and not saying only what they think I want to hear. To tell them an overly embellished story just so I can hear their laughter.
I got dressed today because I know this isn’t normal, but I’m starting to feel like it is. Maybe if I get dressed and make my own coffee and sit down at my makeshift desk, then everything will feel better. The truth is, I’ve been unintentionally hiding how much I miss my students. I’ve suppressed the feeling so far down that it’s now bubbling just underneath the surface and I feel as if I may burst. Some days - days like today - I’m broken and just want to make sure my students are okay. Because, the truth is: I’m not. And that’s okay.
I got dressed today and had to go to the building. I stood in my classroom. Coffee in hand. Mask on my face. The walls are the same. ACT tests sit askew in desk baskets - carelessly tossed and abandoned, ready to be picked up to be used, but ultimately forgotten. I started taking my books off my shelves to bring home so they don’t warp in the humidity. I pulled a book off the shelf and remembered a student telling me she wanted to read a “good” story but didn’t know what that was. It took us until December to find her a book she could actually finish and she was so happy she finally finished a book and actually liked reading. I had many genuine conversations with students about books and what words actually mean when they impact our lives. We talked about pain. About death. Love. Relationships. The anticipation of Summer and little responsibilities. Now, I’m dressed. Sitting at my desk. Staring at 35 empty desks. And it’s time to say goodbye.
So. Here it is. A message to my students: I’m proud to call you mine. I have felt like the luckiest teacher this year - the bad days included. I’ve seen you show love. I’ve seen you come out of the darkness. I’ve seen you grow. I’ve seen you continue breathing and moving, even when you didn't want to. You are funny and strong and resilient. I’m a better teacher - and person - for knowing you. Thank you for your moments of vulnerability and for trusting me to lead you. I can’t wait to see you again in person.
Tessie Curran currently teaches at Moore High School and serves as a sectional officer in charge of new teachers for OKCTE.