As part of a personal project, I have been photographing a friend (or couples) every day since January 1st of this year. I haven’t done much photographically in the past year so this is one way of re-honing my skills and doing a project that I have always thought about doing. However, in the past week, I decided to switch to photographing my educator friends and colleagues for the next week or two. It’s my own meager way of telling their stories regarding the sudden return to in-person instructions in Durham Public Schools (and other districts across the country). My fellow educator today is an elementary school teacher in the district.

Q: What is your name?

My name is Anjane Jacobs.

Q: What do you teach or do in the school system and what grade do you work with?

I am currently a third-grade teacher.

Q: What made you (or inspired you) to become an educator?

I was inspired by my mom and aunt who are educators. My mom works in higher education and my aunt works in early childhood education. I grew to understand the importance of learning by watching them express their passions around education. I knew from a young age that I wanted to help grow the minds of the next generation. The kids I teach will be our future…well, everything. Witnessing the moments when children develop their new skills, opinions, and voices is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.

Q: How are you feeling? 

I am feeling overwhelmed, angry, hurt, guilty, betrayed, sad, grateful for my team, exhausted beyond all belief. The list goes on and on.

Q: What is your mood like right now?

In this present moment, I am feeling defeated…maybe even numb…definitely pissed. It’s honestly hard to keep up with the constant swirl of emotions that come with all that is going on in our dysfunctional system, on top of the regular chaos of teaching children.

Q: How do you feel about the sudden return to school buildings?

I feel that the sudden return to school buildings is irresponsible. 

Q: How do you think it affects or impacts the students’ learning?

At this point in the school year, I don’t think it makes sense to send students back into the building. There is essentially only one quarter left and students have been making growth towards learning goals all year long! It takes time to get students acclimated to the classroom setting during a normal school year. Trying to do so at this point in the year, so close to state testing and after students have literally been learning at home and online for 11 months, is asinine. There are so many more protocols that students will have to be aware of and abide by. I think it would be unfair to ask that of students if it is not absolutely necessary. This goes deeper than just the physical safety of any and all that might be affected. I’m talking more about the mental and emotional safety that is on the line. People are terrified of this process happening right now. People are stressed. Educators are feeling guilty for not wanting to come back all while feeling pressured to do so with very little thought given to the families that educators have at home waiting for them. The toll of this mental health decline will lead to a declination of the amazing teaching that some are so eager to get back to. How can any human be expected to work well and serve others when they are in distress?

Q: As honestly as you can, do you think it’s time to return to the building? If not, when do you think will be a more appropriate time?

I know that there are families that are struggling with jobs and childcare. I know that there are students who would benefit from face-to-face instruction. I know that teachers, including myself, miss the energy of a busy classroom full of active learners. I know that there are other counties throughout the state that have been in-person for quite some time and are somehow managing. Even knowing all of these things, there is one more thing that I know that trumps all of that for me. It’s the fact that re-opening is still not as safe as it could be. If schools and the staff within them were given more time to fully prepare themselves and the spaces, I might feel better about it, but everything is on such a tight timeline. I do not understand why it must be done now as opposed to in the fall. Give educators a chance to catch our breath and wrap our minds around everything that’s happening and what we are being asked to take on!

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