Sometimes it seems impossible to believe that there are people who enjoy reading my words. Not only my stories or poems, but just my blog posts and the random things I voice here.
I wasn’t even sure I should say anything about what school has been like this year because I feel like a broken record with the needle stuck on the same message. But you, dear readers, have heard my voice and responded more than I could have anticipated. By the hundreds, if not thousands. Readers, commenters, and followers. I cannot thank you enough for telling me that you hear me, you see me, you empathize, and I’m blown away by how many of you relate because you are in the same circumstances.
I never imagined that my words would give voice to all of you to such an extent. How could I? I don’t know that anyone can anticipate a response like that.
And I’ve been struggling to find more words to say on the subject. You see, because I (and several other teachers at my school) spoke out to the school board about some of the ridiculous things going on, there’s been retaliation. Besides pointing out how stressed and overwhelmed we are, we also pointed out that just pushing the students forward, instead of taking a pause to deal with the problems of the pandemic was a folly that was failing our students’ needs. Suddenly, teachers at our school came under intense scrutiny from the administration (and by people we like to call the “phonics police”). They criticized the way teachers were teaching, threw out what we were doing, wanted us to just read a script, banned the use of technology to teach, AND mandated that we must handwrite our daily phonics lessons on chart paper that students cannot see while safely distanced around a room (instead of the same information being projected).
They are coming to our classrooms to observe us almost daily now (even when we are not on an observation track!). They have blamed teachers for the students’ failure to learn and are pushing more hard core, regimented academics at the students. They are also demanding a ton more work from already overwhelmed staff and threatened us. If we don’t get these students who are behind to show “more than a year’s worth of academic growth” we will be moved grade levels, etc. And no, this isn’t happening in every school in my district. It’s happening in mine. And if you ask the admin about the retaliation, they will tell you that isn’t. They have some great justifications to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing. But trust me, it’s retaliation on a grand scale, targeted at just the teachers who spoke out (at first), then trickling into punishment for every teacher in the building.
I’m greatly discouraged to report this. Not only because of the lack of change for the better AND the horrible administration tactics I see, but because of some of the things I’ve come to realize are a result. I can’t create right now. I don’t have the time, the head space, or the emotional capacity to create. It breaks my heart to put my dreams on pause, but I’m under immense pressure, and frankly, I’m also quite depressed about all of this. I’ve had to pull back from a LOT of things and put them on pause.
Because that’s what I keep telling myself this is: a pause. It’s not forever, it’s just for now. I’m in survival mode, because I am GOING to survive this school year. I’m crying my eyes out on a regular basis. Then, I’m gritting my teeth, and I’m pushing through this awful crap, because if I quit in the middle of a school year, the state will take away my teaching certificate. I almost quit a month ago when they started this “crack down” in October. I will make it to the end of the school year and move on. I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but I’m tired of being abused like this. And I’m absolutely worn out of fighting this battle for the rights of the kids I serve. They deserve so much better.
All that is to say that I’m going to have to pull back on my blog interviews as well. I’m going to wrap up the interviews I have planned over the next few months, but … I don’t think I can take on any new ones (at least not until this school year is over in May). Which also makes me want to cry. I love picture books and I love sharing them with you and my students. I love being the champion and cheerleader for new authors and many of my author and/or illustrator friends I’ve come to know and love. I love the momentum I’ve built on my blog and I don’t want to see that die. And I don’t want you, dear readers, to feel like I’ve left the building. BUT I know that I’m going to have to take a beat.
I go to work early and leave late every day. I’m working almost every minute of the weekend. Right now, it’s all consuming and exhausting beyond belief. Something’s gotta give and I’m fighting to make sure it isn’t me.
Part of me feels like I’m failing, even posting this, but … I’ve gotta do it. SO I will highlight a few more picture books in December and after that, it might be one a month at the very least until this God awful school year is over. I’m sorry. I’ve been struggling to even come to the decision to do this. But I’m taking a bit of a pause and I’ll be back. If you think of me, send me love, positive thoughts, and/or prayers. I desperately need them right now.