Thank You: An Open Letter To Educators Retiring During the Global Pandemic

Dear Retiring Educators,
This is difficult to write because, well, a lot of things are difficult right now. We’re all confronting situations we never imagined would happen in our lifetimes, and every day brings a new challenge. Milestones and plans fall to the wayside like hay chaff blown by a gust of hot, summertime wind. And we find ourselves left to make up a new way forward as we go along.

I didn’t want to let the occasion of your retirement pass by without some sort of acknowledgement, though, however small it may be.

So, to the retiring teachers, paraeducators, special educators, SLPs, behavior interventionists, tutors, guidance counselors, and librarians, thank you. Working in classrooms with you, I am exceedingly aware of the gratitude you deserve.

Thank you for showing up. Whether it felt like it or not, you made students and colleagues feel like they were worthwhile by virtue of your being there and doing the hard work. You took the time, and in today’s world, that is no small gesture. And by doing so, you taught others.

Thank you for being patient. This virtue was required daily with regard to student and staff behavior, plans that changed on the fly, and the ever-moving goalposts of state and federal requirements. By displaying patience, you created opportunities for growth, and in this way, you taught others.

Thank you for going the extra mile. Buying classroom supplies with your own money. Staying late to work with students or attend an IEP meeting that came up at the last minute. Prepping work for a colleague who was running short on time. You did more than was required of you , and in so doing, you taught others.

Thank you for challenging yourself. When new technology appeared, you learned the ins and outs. When the shiny new curriculum was mandated, you studied and applied it, even though you knew a different one would come along next year or the old one would be reimplemented. When teaching became delivering lunches, participating in vehicle parades, and helping students remotely. You never allowed for the same old, same old, and by not settling, you taught others.

Thank you for facing the horror of school shootings. You have seen student trainings evolve from simple fire drills to lockdown drills to ALICE drills. You sat through your own trainings, learning how to teach your young students to counter and escape an active shooter. You were given the unenviable role of helping our kids understand that even school isn’t safe from gun violence, and even though it broke your heart, you taught others. 

Thank you for hanging in there. By all rights, you could have thrown in the towel back in mid-March when everything you were taught and have practiced regarding education got turned on its head by COVID-19. You could have spaced out during Zoom meetings, produced the bare minimum of work for your students to do, and not pushed yourself outside your comfort zone. Instead, you did the opposite, and by doing this, you taught others.

Oh yeah. There’s also the other stuff. The reading, music, history, math, gym, writing, science, art, music, and more. But that was only the beginning, right? And that’s the greatest trick any educator plays. The subjects are just the tip of the iceberg. Because no matter what, in the classroom or out, you were always teaching.

And you were always learning.

As your retirement begins, I hope you are able to pursue the dreams and plans you’ve spent the last few years making. If the pandemic has altered circumstances and you can’t, I hope you are able to create new dreams and plans befitting the time you so richly deserve.

Once again, thank you. And happy retirement.
Ethan Dezotelle

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