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A Year Later: Baltimore Teacher’s Reflection on the ’20-’21 School Year – Kyair Butts, Waverly Elementary/Middle School

At the onset of the pandemic, the Fund asked City Schools students, teachers, and principals to share their experience of the shift to remote learning. A year later, the Fund has followed up with the same individuals for their perspective on the 2020-2021 school year. In our second blog post of this series, Kyair Butts, Baltimore City Public Schools’ 2019 Teacher of the Year, shares a message with his fellow educators acknowledging how they rose to the challenges of this school year. You can read his essay from May 2020 here.

This goes out to any educator that feels broken and bullied. Those that feel down and defeated. To the hopeful and hopeless- this has been the most trying and triumphant year on record for me (maybe you too). I work hard every year, but the designs of duty this year went beyond my capacity at times even though I remain fully capable to do the work required of this work. To those broken and bullied, I hear you. I am you. To those down and defeated, I hear you. I am you. To those hopeful and hopeless, I hear you. I am you. To the tried, tired and triumphant, I hear you. I am you.

In a year where the seemingly easy became difficult, teaching took on new meaning. What the buildings masked and hid for so long were now exposed just as the frightened and mask-less so early. At times it felt as though a wayward ship adrift in an ocean storm had more balance and control than I did. When I wanted to focus on daily instruction, culture before content, the demands placed on me were almost suffocating.

I came to realize that this year, more than ever, being present (physically and mentally) was my greatest asset to children. Likewise, children being present (physically and mentally) were my greatest source of joy this school year. Seeing students make reading gains, the joys of students when they wrote a stellar essay or the simple delights of being present and laughing during a game of “Would You Rather…” came to be my daily wins that filled me with life and light. If you are like me, in those moments with students, I didn’t feel broken. I wasn’t being bullied. Down and defeated were replaced by highs and victory.

To the broken and bullied, you and I are whole and enough. To the down and defeated, you and I are transcendent and victorious. To the hopeless, you and I gave hope. To those tried and tired, you and I are triumphant and tenacious. While this has been the hardest year of record for me, it has also been my proudest. Our year was interrupted by global panic and fear. Teachers, you, and I, transitioned and we taught, like only you and I know how. We did that and we’ll do it again. To the beautiful and bold, I am proud of you. To the dedicated and dutiful, I am proud of you. Baltimore City educators, I hear you. I see you. I AM you. For that, I am proud.

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The Fund’s latest reportNOT IN SERVICE, examines how students experience public transportation in Baltimore and the implications that experience has for their education, employment and other opportunities.