Hopefully Hybrid

It’s Friday night and I just finished my first two days of hybrid instruction. I’m exhausted, though it’s not what you’d expect. I certainly have a sore face. Without a doubt, my throat is scratchy and I’m a bit dehydrated. I can’t help but think if someone passed along the virus to me. But no, my exhaustion is different. 

Since March 13th, I’ve thought about my classroom. I wondered when I’d be back, bouncing around, cracking jokes, and building relationships. I hoped for a time when I could again feel my hair stand on end as a student lights up with thought and leaves the room with anticipation for the next day. 

Certainly, these past two days were fulfilling. Seeing just a handful of my students in person was enough to bring an infusion of energy that only the buzz of young people, anxious to learn, can bring. I’m happy and full of hope again. And yet, I’m in mourning. Masked, distanced, and disoriented, these young and bold individuals look timid. They’re unsure of surroundings that have been their home away from home for years. I try to walk around the room but the apprehension for us all is evident. We’re a bit scared and unsure if what we’re doing is irresponsible or safe. Ultimately, they’re as conflicted as me. 

So, conflicted and confused, I prepare. I wake up each morning and select my “dad joke” of the day. I think of ways to express my joy, since my masked smile won’t do. I make sure to take my breaks and check on my own three children, at home, who are struggling to learn on the other side of the computer screen. They’re just as thirsty for the pre-pandemic connection that once offered them renewed spirit but now a confusing mix of hope and anxiety.

2020 has shined a bright light on the role of teachers as lovers of children. We will certainly work towards test scores and literacy benchmarks, but we are the keepers of hope and faith. We are society’s levy against the rising waters that will inevitably offer the next great generational challenge. But we must allow ourselves to coexist in the dichotomy created by hybrid instruction. We are allowed to love each moment as much as we grieve it. Nothing about this time is normal and there should be no expectation to accept our realities as such. We are allowed to cry and laugh. We can love and hate the same day. The truth is that our students need to see us as true reflections of each of our core emotions. They need to be led by a teacher that cares for themselves, creates a real space, and shows a true picture of resolve and perseverance.

I’m certainly exhausted. But it’s more complicated than that.



Nate Rios

Nate Rios has been a staple of the Flowing Wells community for 20 years. Even before earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religious Studies from the University of Arizona and a post-baccalaureate certification in 2007, he was a part of Flowing Wells High School, in Tucson, Arizona. Beginning in 2000, at the age of 18, Rios began volunteering to help mentor students through the non-profit Young Life. Long before teaching, he felt a calling to care for high school students regardless of their life situations. Due to his teaching experience, his values have grown even stronger: relationships always come first.
In his 13 years teaching, Rios has worn many hats. Student Council, National Honors Society, leadership retreat, department chair, new teacher induction instructor, and instructional coach are just some of the many ways he’s contributed to the high school community. In 2018 he was an ambassador for teachers as a featured educator in Tucson Values Teacher’s documentary, TEACHING IN ARIZONA. His experiences caring for students and teachers both inside and outside of the classroom have led him all over the state to speak on behalf of educators and Arizona students. In 2020, his efforts culminated in his selection as an Arizona Educational Association Ambassador for Excellence.
Ask any of his colleagues or students and they’ll tell you that he is dedicated to the betterment of the lives of every child and teacher.

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