I’m a Teacher and I Love My Job But I Didn’t Sign Up For This

I'm a Teacher and I Love My Job But I Didn't Sign Up For This

This morning, I walked into my classroom for the first time after winter break. Reality quickly set in: we’re still teaching in a pandemic.

I was wearing a brand new outfit…along with my new mask draped across my face from ear to ear… and my clear plastic shield expanding from my forehead to my chin. In the bottom of my left jacket pocket was a brand new bottle of hand sanitizer to match the large bottle sitting at the front of my teacher desk. My right coat pocket held a thermometer that would check countless temperatures today. I made sure to load in new batteries.

I didn’t sign up to protect dozens while teaching in a pandemic.

“Mask, shield, sanitizer, thermometer,” the checklist had run through my brain multiple times before entering the school building. I knew this was the easy part, as I would be offering reminders all day:

“Make sure your mask is covering your nose and mouth.”

“Stand here and let me take your temperature.”

“How was your break? How are you feeling? Were you exposed to anything?”

At some point in the morning, I realized I hadn’t even thought about English. Our novel was the last thing on my mind. These days, reading seems more tedious where it used to bring me joy.

What’s more bothersome than that, though, is that when I asked my students about their break, I didn’t actually care. Instead of feeling curious about their adventures, I found myself silently judging: “Were they socially distancing?” “What if they are sick in a few days?” “What if the holidays have brought on MORE sickness?” Teaching in a pandemic has put a heaviness over everything I do.

Once I was knee-deep in the usual pandemic paranoia, I found myself also realizing—

None of us signed up for teaching in a pandemic.

When I chose my profession and signed my name on the dotted line of my first contract, I had no idea just what I was signing up for.

Nowhere in those four years of my undergraduate degree did someone bring up the possibility of a global pandemic, or the idea that I would be expected to teach through one.

No one taught us how to teach completely “virtually,” and most importantly, no one told us we might have to one day put our health – and that of our loved ones – on the line.

I didn’t sign up to put my family in danger while teaching in a pandemic.

Contrary to popular belief, my sole purpose in life isn’t to foster the education of my students and please all the higher-ups making my decisions for me. I’m actually a REAL person with a WHOLE life outside of this. I have an entire family equipped with a husband and two kids who are affected by every conclusion laid out by my board of education and superintendent. I never signed up for a career that left me smack dab in the wake of this pandemic.

I’ve never taken issue with sacrificing my time and abilities during those eight hours each day that I spend in the classroom, but now the line is blurred. My sacrifices are now extended beyond those eight hours each day, and those sacrifices are now extended beyond ME. During the days we’ve spent in school, I’m in close contact with thirty children; that’s thirty children with thirty sets of families whose distancing plans are all a mystery to me. My Covid-19 exposure as a teacher? It’s more than your average employee.

During the days I’ve spent distance teaching from home, I’m expected to teach my students AND facilitate education for my own children. How? I’m still not sure, honestly. Every single day is a struggle until I tap out of my teacher job at three o’clock to be “Mommy.”

I didn’t sign up for the utter overwhelming exhaustion of teaching in a pandemic.

I didn’t sign up for the back-and-forth of in-school and distance learning or the anxiety that comes with all of it. “What kind of learning will we do this week?” It’s always a mystery. What fresh hell will THIS Monday bring?

We’re the essential workers without the essential pay. Teaching during a pandemic really just shines a spotlight on our barely-living wage.

I’m a teacher and I didn’t sign up for this, so cut me some slack as I gear up for yet another semester of uncertainty and chaos. I’m doing my very best.


I'm a Teacher and I Love My Job But I Didn't Sign Up For This

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Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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