“Things left undone” – Why the COVID Closure of Schools May Be So Difficult for Educators

“…it’s the things left undone that make this so difficult. We weren’t able to grieve the end of school. We just left on Friday the 13th…and it was over…”

DEEL Team Member

Like many educators across the nation, I was on a Zoom meeting last week. However, this one was different because of a comment made by one of our sharp team members. The quote above captures the essence of what was said. For me it was, the “things left undone” that haunted my thinking.

For me personally, Pitt County Schools hosted the grand opening of the Kathy Taft Center for Excellence and Leadership in Education on March 12th. It was a joyous occasion to celebrate a dream that took years to build. On March 13th, 100 highly effective Pitt County educators came to the Center to build instructional packets in case we had to close school. Then over the weekend, school closed… That was March 13, 2020.

The Kathy Taft Center, Pitt County Schools, March 2020

What has been so tough are all the things left undone this Spring Semester. We had grand plans for training and celebrating our teachers. Teachers had grand plans for their end of year units, awards ceremonies, and new lessons. There were field trips planned, concerts that were scheduled, field days that elementary students looked forward to. The entire athletic season was cancelled. Seniors couldn’t play their last game, parents couldn’t cheer, championships couldn’t be won. Graduation won’t happen, hugs will be missed, prom is just a dream that won’t dance into the evening. Lockers and cubbies are full of clothing, books, pencils, and even snacks. So much was simply left undone…

Empty Athletic Field, May 2020

Maybe the biggest loss was that of the relationships that teachers and students cherish every day. One of our Multi-Classroom teachers talked about missing her Breakfast Crew that she provides breakfast for every morning. One of our Collaborating Teachers talked about missing being able to read to real students rather than to a computer via Zoom. One of our Teacher Leadership Institute participants couldn’t organize the prom committee and another couldn’t implement the Positive Behavior Support project she planned. A Key BT participant talked about missing playing with his students on the playground every day and another missed lunch conversations. So much was left undone…

Neighborhood Thank You during meal delivery

Teachers worried about their student’s who don’t have a home to shelter in. They visited the hotel where mom works to make sure work was done and to leave video messages on mom’s phone for their student who is home alone with their high school brother. Hundreds of thousands of meals were prepared and delivered to students who need a healthy meal. Our teachers miss their students. They miss their smiles. They worry about the ones who need a loving adult in their life. Many could not even say good-bye. It was simply left undone…

Delivering Meals via PCS busses

The first step in dealing with raw emotion is often naming the emotion. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m worried. I wonder what is going to happen next August. Sometimes just naming the emotion honors the fact that it’s OK to feel that way. It honors the existing state that many educators find ourselves in, because so much was left undone…

The next step is probably going to be something along the lines of what Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky said, “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.” The need arose and now it’s time to get some things done…

We have to find a way to create a new desired state. A tone of hope in a time of loss. We have to find a way to get the next thing done…and continue to take care of every single child, every single day.

Seth Brown, Pitt County Schools

One thought on ““Things left undone” – Why the COVID Closure of Schools May Be So Difficult for Educators

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  1. This is so true. We’ve gotten through the panic with still so much to do and possibly a new vision for next year. But like many, I woke up today with a new charge…let’s do what we can to get ourselves, students and parents in a good place for the end of the year. It never occurred to me that it was Friday the 13th. It sure was!

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