Thank You, Dear Colleagues, for Persevering – and Caring

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April 20, 2021

This is the seventh in a series of guest blogs by the 2020-21 Michigan Regional Teachers of the Year. Sarah Soper is a high school teacher at Northwest High School, Northwest Community Schools.

Dear Colleagues,
I see how hard you are working. I see the many extra hours you are putting in to try and do right by your students.
I see how much it bothers you when the naysayers say teachers “have been on break” this entire time. They don’t understand that this “break” is the hardest year you’ve ever had as an educator.
I see you sitting at your desk, trying to communicate and teach passionately with both your online students (who are black boxes) and your 25 students in class. You are limited to your desk because that’s the way technology is set up and you know this is not the dynamic you want or would normally have in your classroom.
I know that you’ve taken your own time to go to students’ houses, to drop off books, food or just check in on them because you haven’t heard from them in days or weeks ... or months.
I see the fear in your eyes as you go into your classroom full of students each day. You know you have a weakened immune system, but we are teaching in person, and this means you must be present.
I hear the pain in your voice when you tell me how many students are failing this year and that you’ve done everything you can to try and reach them. I tell you it’s not your fault, but you still feel like it is.
And then, I see you put a smile on your face and get ready for the next class
Later, I see you in the hallway, embracing one of our other colleagues in a hug. Even though your day was hard, hers was harder, and you know in that moment she needs you. 
I see you sneaking into classrooms after the school day to put an encouraging note and small gift on desks.
I am grateful for you when you take my class during conference hour. I put in for a sub, but we are so low on subs right now that no one picked it up. I know this means extra work for you, but you do it anyway.
I hear you making jokes in the hallway to lighten the mood of fellow staff members.
I see you giving small gifts, tokens and anonymous notes as ways of encouragement.
What I see more than anything is the way you support one another. When one of us is having a bad day, the other one is there to pick us up.
And I thank you. I thank you for helping me get through this year and for helping me know I’m not alone.
I thank you because I could not have done it without all of you. 
This year is my 16th year teaching, and I certainly never could have dreamed up a year like this one. But despite how hard it is, this year has made me marvel at all the amazing teachers I see every single day and all of the incredible teachers across the country who I know are doing the same thing. I am constantly impressed with their resiliency, flexibility and creativity as they make the best out of this year, despite the challenges. I am so grateful for my colleagues, my online teaching community and educators as a whole for all they have done this year. I want you to know that I see you. And I thank you.
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