In February of my first year teaching 3rd grade, I lost my voice. I literally lost it. I muddled through a couple of days with my hoarse whisper, but it was a challenge. Worse yet, my muddling through just made my laryngitis worse. Ultimately, my voice could make no words, it just sounded like I was breathing.
What’s a teacher to do? Fortunately, we were in the second semester when classroom practices were well established. It was a harrowing three days where I used written expression, dramatic charades, and an ipad that I preprogrammed with detailed instructions for new assignments (it would read them in a british accent which delighted the kids). Later, a parent confessed that her son thought the whole three days was just a stunt! This is hilarious and believable, which tells you something about who I am as a teacher.
In any case, it makes me think of this moment in teaching. Being out of the classroom and distanced from my students, I fear I am losing my voice. I can’t sing, dance, or yell loud enough to get all of their attention. For some, it’s as if I do not exist anymore. It breaks my heart. Moreover, the natural playfulness of the classroom, which lends itself so well to sparks of silliness and formative observation that propel lessons forward, is notably absent.
How can I find my voice in this moment? Focusing on factors I can control and taking one step at a time is a good start! Here are some things I’m doing:
- Meeting each parent where they are at
- This means I have to send some facebook messages in addition to emails
- This means I’m texting some parents
- I recognize that Susie’s Mom doesn’t have time/patience for lengthy messages so she sometimes gets a shorter one.
- I anticipate Ryan’s Dad’s questions and do my best to be ready
- Meeting each student where they are at
- For me, this mostly means being ok with awkward, short, and stunted conversations. Phone and video calls are awkward for everyone, but 9 year olds have not really developed the skills to interact with adults in this space.
- With asynchronous learning, I’m asking myself if clarifying and perfecting work is important enough to delay moving forward. In this moment, some things are “good enough.”
- Find the fun and inspiration in the moment in which I am living
- Staying connected to inspiring and world class educators through reading and personal relationships
- For teaching purposes, for me, this means still being silly with a ukulele on youtube instead of in the hallway
- Developing and nurturing my own creativity
- Finding personal moments of silliness (Ok, I started playing Animal Crossing. Don’t judge me. It’s fun!)
This is a strange moment to be living in as a teacher. As I move forward, I just have to figure out how to be myself while being there for those I am so privileged to call my students. And now my voice, just like it did after those three terrible days, is coming back.
What are you doing to find your voice in this moment in teaching?
Finding our voice in this vast “silence” is indeed difficult. You are an amazing teacher, identifying not just what the kids need, but the parents and yourself, too. I’m sure all your families greatly appreciate you and all you are doing for them!
Thank you. It is challenging to feel like ourselves during this time.