Usually, the night before we return to school after a break, the internet is full of funny memes about going back to work and teachers playfully grumble about having to return to reality.
Well let me tell you, today is different.
What we wouldn’t give to be getting up tomorrow morning, dropping our own kids to creche or childminder or school, and driving in the gates of our respective schools.
What we wouldn’t give to hear the lighthearted greetings in our staffroom, with “Here we go agains” and “Welcome backs”.
What we wouldn’t give to be walking into our classrooms, booting up the computers which have been sleeping for a week or two, opening the windows to let some light and air in.
What we wouldn’t give to have the door open and the first of many groups of teenagers saunter through the door, fully committed to the “I don’t want to be here” demeanours, but still smiling and throwing the odd “Maidin Mhaith” or “Yes Mhaistreais” as they find their usual seat.
What we wouldn’t give to hear the familiar voices mutter or announce their “here!” or “Yips” or “Anseo!” as we call through the roll before starting.
What we wouldn’t give to see the faces who in many cases have been in front of us for 6 years, some smiling, some growling, some feigning carefree apathy, some feigning interest.
What we wouldn’t give to hear the voice of the secretary over the PA system, apologising for interrupting the class.
What we wouldn’t give to have our colleagues wave through the window as they pass, or coming to the door to ask a question or give a message.
What we wouldn’t give to hear the bell; the awful, invasive, horrible ringing blast which we curse and loath usually; but which right now, would sound like music on the wind.
What we wouldn’t give to hear the noise; the calls, the laughs, the random sounds that can only be created by a few hundred young people moving from classroom to classroom.
What we wouldn’t give to sit in the staffroom and hear the familiar voices and quips and jokes and laughs from the colleagues we have worked beside for years.
Because you see, teaching is more than turning up and imparting information.
Those young faces that sit in front of us are more than just a name on the roll.
Those young faces have grown and changed in front of us daily, so gradually, that like our own kids at home, we never notice them growing.
We know them. We care for them. We get them. Well, we TRY to get them.
And while there is nonsense and rascality and mischief and sometimes tantrums, mostly our young people are a pleasure to teach and to see every day.
Students are under so much pressure right now. The uncertainty is painful, and it is painful for them and for their families… and for their teachers.
We miss them. We miss the craic. We miss their faces. We miss the personalities and attitudes and talents and challenges.
We were not ready to walk away from our students on March 12th.
We were not ready to say goodbye to the Leaving Cert students who we have known and taught for six years.
We were not ready to not see the kids who we taught and cared for each day.
So yes, tomorrow morning, we would do anything to be able to go back to school.
We’d give anything to see our “other babbies” and to do our jobs in the best way we know how, in our classrooms.
We’d give anything to hear them and answer their questions and laugh at their jokes.
And we’d give anything to have the answers to all of their questions and fears and to make them all feel safe and OK and that everything is going to be OK.
Because we miss them. (Every single one of them…even the ones who I guarantee do NOT miss us!)
Instead, we’ll get up early and do our jobs in the only way we can right now… from a dodgy laptop in the kitchen or spare room.
And we’ll doubt everything we’re doing and worry that it’s not enough.
And we’ll worry about the kids who we know can’t keep up.
And we’ll worry about the kids who we know are in difficult situations at home.
And we’ll worry about ALL of the students, (even those who are not doing state exams.)
And we’ll worry about the kids who we know are under serious pressure, for so many reasons.
Because, they are not just students.
They are OUR students, in whom we invest so much more than just 40 minutes a day.
I have a magnet in my classroom. It says “Teaching is a work of heart”. A student bought it for me in 2001.
I always thought it a bit cliched.
But it is not. It is true.
And for most of us, our hearts won’t be the same until we get to see our students again.
And all we can do right now, is look forward to that day.