Those Last Three Years

last three years

Teaching through a pandemic makes no one a better educator. It may have made some more resourceful, more attuned to the social and emotional needs of human beings, more thoughtful about their pedagogy. But a better teacher? Those last three years could not have done that. 

 

In order to teach the whole student you have to be whole first. What the last three years did do was give us enough fodder to sift through to find our spots. To locate our positionality. To uncover exactly where we fit within our roles of serving a child, a school community, an education system. The lucky ones found comfort zones within those live Google meets and zoom classrooms. I resented it almost every morning. Ironically, the time unattached to the physical location of the school building, for me, equated to solid personal growth. I became a way better cook. I read more than I ever did in my life. I took up meditation and finally started taking my insides more seriously. 

 

But if I’m being honest, it was a debacle professionally. I often looted my own integrity for the sake of self preservation. I pillaged my curiosity and leadership and devotion to the craft. Over the last three years, it was more of a relief than an accomplishment at the end of every June. Questions about all of my career choices and character arose out of my subconsciousness for the first time ever. I’m not content with anything I did school wise. Only thankful I survived. 

 

To say that I did a disservice would be too harsh. At the end of the day, those children got taught. They learned from their bedrooms and kitchens and auntie’s basements and grandma’s balconies while I explained and provided examples from my couch. I burnt plastic bowls on my kitchen stove trying to explain the particle theory and bought white boards that I’ll never use again in order to show certain ideas in geometry and geography. I never want to revisit those times. 

 

In fact, I am waiting for a new school year to begin. I feel removed from the irregularity that those three years brought. I want the opportunity to redeem myself. To build with humans in a way that could never be duplicated over a computer screen. The little things are what I look forward to the most. That nervousness and angst that you only get when you don’t know what the morning will look like but you at least know you’ll get to look at other people and they’ll get to look at you. In that middle part, the conduit between teaching and learning, is where I gather my joy in this calling. 

 

Maybe teaching during the pandemic didn’t make me a better teacher in the moment. But maybe it has the potential to make us better educators tomorrow.  

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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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