As if we didn’t already appreciate teachers before COVID-19 threw a giant wrench into what we knew as normal, everything they’ve done over the past 14 months has significantly deepened our gratitude. We love how they have faced new challenges with redoubled determination and dedication, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts! Since we are celebrating teachers this month, we thought it was appropriate that we posted our second round of interviews with teachers about what school has been like during the pandemic.
Meet Kathy, an EC teacher for a k-12 school, who loves all her kids and calls the youngest ones her “littles”; Derrick, a passionate and dedicated high school history teacher; and Barbara Jane, a 5th grade teacher who loves to make her students laugh while learning.
What has been your general experience with school this year?
Despite the range of age, experience, and geography, these three teachers have all struggled to some degree. Kathy, the most veteran of the group, said, “Many things seem harder than I anticipated. It feels like being a first-year teacher in a lot of respects.”
Derrick is overwhelmed by what feels like double the course load. A big concern is that the students don’t seem to be doing the work and their grades are suffering. “I’m exhausted. I feel burnt out and ready to give up some days. But I keep going because I love my job and my community.”
Barbara Jane’s experience has been “beyond unexplainable.” Being completely virtual before March 15, her students had little to no opportunity to socialize and see their friends. She said, “I have AIG and bright students who are failing because they have shut down and just don’t care anymore.” Like Derrick, Barbara Jane feels like the workload has more than doubled, and the stress, she says, “is triple the normal amount.”
What’s the best part?
Kathy said, “I’m a student at heart, so embracing the use of technology has been something I have resisted for a long time, but I’m coming to my senses.” She no longer considers herself an “old school” teacher. While Kathy and Derrick have both enjoyed learning new ways to differentiate and teach, Barbara Jane’s silver lining has been having the support of fellow teachers and the ability to vent common frustrations. Having such comrades who know the path you’re walking makes it a little easier to walk.
What is your biggest challenge?
For Kathy, not seeing her kids in physical space is a challenge. She worries about their mental and social health quite a bit and misses being able to hug them to help reassure them that it gets better. Barbara Jane is also concerned for her students as they are less engaged online than they would be in the classroom.
What do you hope to learn from this school year?
Barbara Jane has learned not to take the simple things for granted: having students in the classroom, being allowed to give them hugs, playing games at recess, laughing together, actually seeing their smiling faces instead of a black screen with their initials. Being able to see students in-person is a huge deal for Kathy too, but she has also learned how to connect with them on different levels, utilize new programs to differentiate and teach her lessons, and communicate with families more. Ultimately, “shared experiences dealing with the shut-down has made us more understanding of each other’s needs.”
Teachers, like everyone else, have all been doing their best to make the most out of a difficult situation. This small sampling is hardly the tip of the iceberg of feelings that teachers have experienced over the last year, but we can see that even with the biggest struggles and toughest obstacles, our teachers are persevering and doing everything they can to provide quality education to their students. They are also looking forward to the day when things can be “normal” again, as we all are!