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By Brianna Romeo, teacher, Maple Ridge

I remember gathering with future teachers in September 2019, all of us vibrating with nervous energy as we started the first semester of our teaching certification program at Simon Fraser University. Did we have what it took to be good teachers? Did we know enough? Did we study enough? Would we be well liked in classrooms? 

Of course, the winter of 2019 bled into what would become a fateful March 2020. All of a sudden, we were not only on the road to becoming teachers, but we were the only group to become teachers in the midst of a global pandemic. We had to pivot, and pivot fast, if we wanted to succeed in this chosen field. We took notes upon notes on how we were not to expect a normal year; we heard time and time again that we must be gentle with the kids and gentle with ourselves; we were eager students of a system that was spinning in a completely different direction than a year previous, with no one quite sure when or how the spinning would stop. For us new teachers, the ones who have been your TTOCs and filling your temporary leaves, this is the only normal we have ever known. 

I started teaching in a temporary contract in January, masked up and all. Most days it feels surreal that someone would put me in charge of a classroom, the classic impostor syndrome of a new teacher, and one who is barely in their mid-twenties. Some days I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. I am trying to maintain an aura of confidence while simultaneously accepting that I need extra support as a new teacher. Seasoned teachers and support staff at my school have been so welcoming and kind to me, answering even the simplest questions and dropping in to see if there is anything I need to feel more confident. They are helpers, and I am grateful. 

One thing I knew with certainty going into this job was that the kids had a pretty tough year. If there was anything I could do to make their learning fun and engaging, I was going to do my best to make it happen. I needed a reason to look up, and so did they. So, we did, quite literally. 

I started a space unit with my Grade 3–4s in January, and we turned our attention to the stars. We learned of planets, stars, and the moon and its phases. We learned about the sun in all of its blazing glory. We learned about black holes (the most fascinating concept, not only for a nine-year-old, but for me too). Black History Month saw us diving into the story of NASA’s computers and the Black women who contributed to making space flight possible. We turned on the live feed of the International Space Station, looking at impossibly cool footage of astronauts and Earth from outer space. 

On the day the Mars rover Perseverance landed, we watched as NASA employees erupted in triumph, marvelling at the wonder that humans had successfully sent yet another rover to Mars. Even sweeter for me as a new teacher was hearing my students perfectly understand what a rover was, as well as its function and purpose. We built rovers out of cardboard that week, little contraptions that moved by a rubber-band pulley. 

Studying the stars and planets was as much fun for me as it was for them. It changes my perspective, however minuscule, to be faced with the understanding of just how small our planet and its inhabitants are, and how resilient we are. Tracing constellations in the sky reminded me of the vast history our Earth has seen; humanity has time and time again undergone immense tragedy, and yet, we’re still here, victorious and orbiting the sun. 

We challenged ourselves to look up, and I found myself looking up, not just literally, but metaphorically as well. The questions I have as a new teacher still follow me: do I know enough? Am I good enough? On the days where I am unsure, my goal is simply to create a community of helpers and hopefuls. To look up is to see others in need and to reach out a helping hand, just as my colleagues have done for me. 

To look up is to remember that good things are coming. To look up is to hope.

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