Even in college
Even in college, we have a first day of school, although I admit it looks a bit different than K-12. The students are older, and they have their share of adult problems. Some with children struggle to make time for homework; others have to work full-time; still others are fighting health conditions or watching family members die of cancer. Gone are the days when all our students were 18-24, could afford their college, and had parents who footed the bill. My students are at times tired, stressed, and worried. They’re not sure of the reward for going to college, except that it’s necessary to go to college to get a job. Necessary, but not automatically sufficient.
Being the teacher
Being the teacher to these students means something different than it did when I was a student. I have to be clearer with instructions because they don’t have the leeway to get things wrong. I have to keep them awake in class. I need to listen with empathy, because sometimes they need someone to talk to. I can’t be infallible like professors of old; I have to work harder, stay humble, be on their level (except when it comes to course content and grading).
What this means to me
This means that showing up to class and teaching is not enough. It means that some of my days will be exhausting, and that I will sometimes be frustrated. It means that I will need support on some days. It means I need to get out of this COVID burnout to do my job.
It means that I am doing something worth getting right.