Baltimore teachers try to 'reflect, rest and recharge' over the summer
By Jemima D. Buchanan
Jul 15, 2018 | 6:00 AM
Students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, talk about the cold temperatures in the school as they leave for the day. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)
We’ve made it to another summer vacation. Some of us walked, rolled, crawled, and some were dragged. But we made it.
We’ve experienced innumerable observations, meetings and professional development sessions. Most math and English teachers drudged through the annual iReady assessment sessions and analyzed the data, regardless of the embarrassingly inefficient technology. We stayed late for far too few parents showing up at teacher-parent conferences. We grimaced as the nation shook its head at the viral image of those little children in pink and blue coats seated on the floor in what appeared to be a cold classroom — something that we’d known about for far too long, especially those of us who are products of Baltimore City Public Schools.
Begrudgingly, we watched as “Project Baltimore,” a Sinclair Broadcast Group “investigation,” purported to shed “light” on city education. We collectively shook our heads until that one brave teacher posed the question we’d been asking ourselves and each other: “Where are the parents?” Maybe “Project Baltimore” will address that mystery in its next season.
In February, we joined America in mourning the loss of 14 students and three educators in Florida, thinking about what we’d do if ever in that situation. Then in March, we mourned the school shooting in Great Mills, Md., and in May, the one in Texas. We know we will again mourn the unnecessary loss of life on school grounds, but we’re praying it won’t be us next time.
Through literal dangers, toils and snares, we are here; yet getting to this moment has not come without some necessary grit. What people rarely seem to understand about a teacher’s life is that it is not his or her own until the middle to end of June, and even then, some of us don’t let go. Many of us commit a great deal of our lives to the students, schools and communities we serve. The athletic teams, step teams, debate teams, bands, choral groups and other activities are organized by teachers — usually during the hours that we are contractually free.
Truthfully, if our jobs only required us to focus on teaching our children, then three-quarters of our stress would disappear. But we know the other time-consuming "stuff" isn’t going anywhere. To be frank, it will probably increase; yet we remain. For many of us, we return because we work with excellent children and are loyal to our schools. We’ve developed relationships with families and their children who mean everything to us, especially for those of us who don’t biologically have our own.
So I celebrate with you, my fellow colleagues. We have hope for a brighter future because of the children we’ve spent time with this year. This year has been marked by imperfections and even some defeat, but hope remains.
As I watched students at my alma mater, Western High School, where I now teach, cross the stage, I juggled mixed emotions. Initially, I felt a sense of sadness and disappointment because I realized I’d wanted more for some of them than they wanted themselves. At that moment, I grappled with the futility of remaining. Sometimes I feel that in my pushing students, I am only met by more resentment and resistance and sometimes more loopholes for students to do less while teachers do more. I am not alone in this feeling.
Throughout the ceremony, I continued to reflect upon this question of whether to remain but finally resolved that even with mixed feelings, I would celebrate. Many of these young ladies, whom I met as freshmen — one or two, I’d met as toddlers — are at the precipice of brilliant beginnings. Some of them received full academic scholarships to the universities of their choice, like Bucknell, UMBC and Johns Hopkins; others have been accepted to schools that undoubtedly will groom them into the women and leaders our world desperately needs. During that ceremony, amid all the shouts and cheers from excited family members, I decided to remain, if for no other reason than hope.
Those young ladies and other students across Baltimore reached this moment because of labor — their own, but also the labor of their parents and teachers — the village. So now that the labor is finished for another school year, we can reflect, rest and recharge. Yet what’s most important, especially for a city like Baltimore in such fragile condition, is that we, with hope, remain.