I’m spending my spring break with who?

Laughter, gossip, dungeon and dragon battles, fashionistas, smell of bacon egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches: these are some of the things I miss about being at school every day as a high school teacher. I also miss getting dressed for work, collaborating with my peers and yes, anticipating the end of the day when I can decompress at home.

This is petty when I think of what essential workers might be nostalgic for — their families, children, sleep, food, financial security and, more importantly, a sense of physical safety.

Their purpose in the world right now is obvious — saving lives.

What is mine as an educator?

That purpose used to be very clear — to educate, inform, guide and empower through routines, schedules, tasks, projects, and so on.

Eliminate the common meeting ground for an educational community and that purpose is quite blurred, made more challenging through mandates, messaging and a generalized view of educators as keeping young people “busy”.

It is precisely this notion of educators as “expensive baby sitters” that is hurtful and weakens our profession.

Most recently, the New York’s political leaders’ decision to turn the time that had been our spring vacation into a Week of Family Service and Support infuriated educators by making us feel further diminished and disempowered. We were caught by surprise. Yet again, without an opportunity for educators to process and transition.

For us, this is yet another huge shift that has been thrust upon us. Our heads spin as we transition from chalk to mouse devices, from manipulatives to internet platforms, from holding our student’s hands to putting up palms on screens for reassurance. And now this.

Yes we are trying to maintain that purpose through the internet and yes the struggle is real .

But isn’t everyone pushed to their limits?

When reflecting on the medical profession risking their lives, delivery people not knowing when they will develop symptoms or store employees wondering how else they can earn the $15 an hour to feed their families, all of my challenges are petty.

This is a difficult moment for all.

For all.

So what now?

What do we do now that this was imposed on us?

Gather the masses and protest? (Imagine how long the parade could be with a hundred thousand educators spaced 6’ apart).

Simmer in anger?

Stew in bitterness?

We are teachers. We know how to respond to imperfect mandates and ill-considered political proposals. We roll up our sleeves and get to work making them work on behalf of our communities and students. The politicians, system leaders, and principals did not have a plan for how to meaningfully engage students during this crisis, so it has been up to teachers to make one.

At our school, teacher leaders joined together to create an experience that support students without over-burdening students or adults. We have shifted the conversation about the Special Week of Family Service and Support from one about burdens to one about opportunities..

If only for 1 week, schools can mirror what and how educators would always have wanted but were never asked to do.

Let educators come together and create what pedagogy looks like during that Spring break.

This is an opportunity for leadership from teachers. Let’s take hold and drive this. We will make mistakes but this is one of the few times where we can and will be heard.

If solidarity does not inspire you, then think of our students.

The students that love and admire us.

Students that trust us more than their caretakers

Students that look forward towards hearing our voice and learning something new — even if it is how to socialize.

Students that need us to forget the world around them — to escape the news or the stressors they are experiencing at home

Students that we suspect are being violated and we need to see them regularly to ensure their safety.

Rather than internalizing these political decisions as “babysitting” roles I will maximize to the best of my ability this unique opportunity.

This week, I will take a moment — maybe only 45 minutes this week — where I will actually get to forget about the world around me.

This week, I will have a chance to share with my students skills they never knew I had and am passionate about.

This week, will work on improving my craft

So guess who I’m spending Spring break with?

My family. In other words, my son, partner, pet, siblings, nieces, parents, friends, neighbors and yes, my students. My students shape and form me and are very much part of my family.

I have a purpose in this historical moment.

I choose to continue to inspire, to lead, to shape.

Stay safe.

Education Activist. Math Adjunct Professor — Baruch and Hunter College (CUNY) , The New School and NYC public school Math Educator (Harvest Collegiate HS)