So, I am sitting here in my classroom alone… thinking.
Two months ago, this room was packed with teenagers. Students who came in every morning to say hello… students who ate their lunch here for a bit of conversation… students who laughed, cried, complained, cheered… students who took up space in this room with their presence. They learned, played, sang, and filled the room with song. These students were my family. They were my purpose. They consumed so much of my heart.
Now the room is empty. True, this is the typical time of year to start packing up for the summer…but this is not normal! This room has already been empty for two months… frozen in time since March 16. When I walked in, the music for our spring concert was still on the piano, there were water bottles left on the risers, folders still in their cubbies… there was a countdown to our trip to New York City and a poster advertising our singing at the Cardinals Game. All around me was evidence that this room was full of life and energy… that we had plans. But it wasn’t anymore. None of the hopes and plans will come to fruition.
So now… I have packed away my things for summer, just like every year before. But this year, I wait… in limbo. After twenty years of teaching, I don’t have any idea what my job will look like next school year! The idea of putting my bag away till July, then prepping new ideas for the school year seems to be gone. No one even knows when or how we will come back. My News feed is full of scary predictions and ideas that don’t seem remotely sustainable.
Who will be in the choir next year?! I didn’t have time to audition or recruit any new members. I have no incentives or ways to encourage the students who were in choir to stay. Frighteningly and worst of all… there is even talk that the arts may not be allowed to return at all next year. Then what do I do?
I worry every day about the health and safety of the students in my care. Are they being told they are important? Are they taking care of themselves? Are they happy? The problem magnifies when I think about what school would look like without the arts. For some, arts classes are salvation… the one place they feel like they fit in… the one outlet where they can take a breath and express themselves. If we take the music away, what happens to those kids?
I have never felt more adrift or purposeless in my life. I don’t know how to move forward. I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I want to make a difference. I want to be able to sing, and teach, and love loudly every day again. Right now, this empty room is screaming… grieving with me.
How long until this room is filled with laughter and singing again?
If I am not a teacher, who am I?