The Thoughts of a Teacher During a Pandemic

Everyone’s feelings and emotions have been swirling around during this pandemic. We’ve all gotten lost in what is truth and what is speculation. It’s been seven months and we have learned many things but much still hangs in the balance.  School doors have reopened and with this comes excitement, fear, and uncertainties. As a teacher, I feel all of these emotions daily. 

Online learning is HARD….not only for the kids but for the teachers. Most school systems were not built to handle virtual school but the education system pulled together and made it happen. Some families rocked it and didn’t skip a beat, some families made an attempt but did not expect the difficulties that came, some families were never able to give it a chance. No matter what, our human minds were not made to sit in front of computers all day. So where did that leave us? We had to reopen schools, but the question was how?

As I write this, we are two weeks into in-person school. My feelings and emotions are like a roller coaster who’s operator doesn’t know where the off switch is. The first day of school was exhilarating. I couldn’t wait to see students in my classroom. Bulletin board up…check, Smart TV working…check, fun activities planned….check, door decorated…check and then the reality hits. Hand sanitizer…check, desk separated….check, extra face mask…check, online nurse form open in case someone is sick…check. My already long list just got even longer. Which by the way our door decorating was on point this year thanks to my awesome team!

As teachers, we already worry about our students. We want the absolute best for them. We want them to succeed. We want them to see what we see…that they can do anything if they just try. As a teacher during a pandemic, we think all of these things and then some. How much did they miss already? How long can they sit in their chairs? Do they remember how to interact with their friends? Are they nervous? Are they excited? How much do they know and don’t know about COVID? Are they fearful? Can I let them hug me, will their parents be ok with it? Can I work hard enough to make sure they can catch up to where they are suppose to be?

What a day in the classroom looks like; They made it! You are here! Find a desk and put all your school supplies on your desk. Let’s go to the carpet and read a book.  Oh no, don’t sit there….keep your hands to yourself….face mask on…go wash your hands…my mind wanders every 5 seconds…do I worry about that? Do I let them do things as normal as possible? Am I protecting them? Which is more important right now…the safety guidelines or their mental health? Can I achieve both the safety guidelines and ensure their hearts and minds are flourishing? Research based educational practices do not follow COVID-19 safety protocols…where do you draw the line? I ask myself all of these things at least a 100 times a day.

None of us asked for this. We all dream of what it was before. A teacher already carried so much weight before this pandemic. Things that no one sees unless you are in the trenches. So many people have opinions but aren’t willing to jump in with us. Some aren’t willing to lighten the load. So many people have forgotten that teachers have families too. We must not only protect your children but ourselves and our families as well. Many teachers felt the weight was too much, the risk was to high.  Many older teachers retired not only to protect themselves but your children. If one day your child’s teacher never came back, it would leave a mark on their heart. It would be far more traumatizing than wearing a face mask.

Believe us when we say, “We are doing our best.” I know you dream about about all the things your child will do as they grow up and so do we. We do everything possible to make sure they realize how amazing they can be. Give us grace…be our champions not our critics. I am only one teacher with a million thoughts, thoughts of wonder, worry, and hope.

One thought on “The Thoughts of a Teacher During a Pandemic

  1. I wrote this in support of parents who now must do the job so many teachers would love to do but cannot. I think times are shifting. With all the roadblocks, parents are taking on the responsibility, which has always been with them. So, here goes, also on my site: Making a cake, together, using teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, pints, ounces, pounds, and more, including steps and following directions. Later, writing, in paragraph form, what you did and learned. Including the senses of taste (flavors), touch (spoons and cake texture, while eating of course), smell (mmmm… cake), sight (colors) and yes, even hearing (mixture, talks, stirring.). Then, to learn about wonderful recipes. To use other measurement tools (rulers, measuring tapes, and more.), building a dog house together. To learn of various measurements (yards as in football fields, miles as in state to state, and such), placing tables on the wall and discussing how those distances and such can be used, where we might find them, as in word problems such as time taken to travel from one state to another.
    On a wall board, poster size, placing business cards of interest in rows (Perhaps, the kids like sporting goods, dance companies, auto body shops, clothing design…). Writing business letters, asking questions discussed at home, searched online. Practicing business letter form, paragraphing, while asking relevant questions with closing. Upon any replies, thanking the company representative for their time, perhaps requesting a visit to their facilities. Then, at home, talking about the experiences. Later, perhaps, visiting some of those businesses, calling first, and making a tour of companies, perhaps talking with an associate. Of course, that may take some coordination, as in businesses where you know the people, perhaps friends with some. Can even discuss with family and friends about their careers.
    Watching some quality commercials, more so the ones you like, and asking questions. What is the commercial selling? How do they get viewers to want the product? What did you like about the advertisement? Then, designing your own commercials, creating a product, writing down the benefits and how you will get viewers to want that product. Then, making a gigantic cardboard screen where the children can put on their commercials, at first, reading their commercials off prepared paper, then without: impromptu. Creativity is the key as they get better. Product design improves with practice. Some may create a song.
    Teaching your dog tricks. Watching The Dog Whisperer, using natural techniques to build trust, then training your pet to sit, follow, fetch the stick or ball, roll over, and such. Along the way, we’re learning relationships, cooperation, steps, what we learned, and outcome. Where did we make mistakes, what did we learn from those mistakes, and how did our efforts turn out? Any writing will be good with this.
    Writing stories. Creating characters, drawing, writing about their likes, friends, family, and activities, say a couple paragraphs for each. Creating scene boards, for the major events, drawing pictures, then a couple paragraphs about what happens in each scene. Writing the story, then editing the first draft, putting dialogue and adjusting scenes to better tell the tale.
    Later, the kids can learn about plays, taking a scene or more, then writing them in play format, each kid and friend taking a part and putting on an act before the parents. Can include outfits, props, and more. In this way, the kids perceived the story from the perspective of the characters, learn about editing, and more.
    Starting a small business out of the garage or home. First, brainstorm what people like, perhaps the children’s peers. Create a list. One list is of things people like, want, or need. Then create a second list of which products you want to make, are affordable, and you can think up ways to make a profit. Going to the craft store and making jewelry? Making cookies, muffins, and such? Maybe go to garage sales, buying things far below market value, then having your own garage sale with a mark-up. And whatever you learn, later putting it on paper, discussing the points. In this way, the kids are learning about business, product development, the market, team work, customer service, money, mathematics, gross and net profits, investment, and more.
    Here’s the thing. Think outside the box, maybe way outside the box. What is the box? A system widely used that doesn’t engage interest, creativity, and real learning. What is thinking outside the box? Ideas that actually teach skills and lessons without thinking about the skills and lessons. Sort of learning without thinking that you’re learning.
    One idea, if you’re concerned about “the standards,” is printing up the list of standards, then rephrasing those “standards” in kid or teen friendly statements so they understand them. They might brainstorm ways to meet those standards through written lessons, projects (such as small city building), and creative activities as above. However, and this is key, for the parent, tutor, or anyone helping, finding real-life ways that end up teaching those standards. For what we learn stays with us. What we engage lasts longer. What we read, not always so much, unless the reading relates to the real world. That’s why, when I taught, I learned that ways that engage without drawing on and on remain with the students.
    Parents have a unique opportunity. Many think they aren’t qualified, but that’s due to “in the box” thinking they grew up believing was the way of the world. For twelve or more years, “in the box” thinking framed most of their lives. Yet time and again, we’ve seen the “out of the box” thinkers go much further, but at least, enjoy the learning opportunities. Not always fun, often just hard work, but added to creativity. School has an amazing opportunity not used. To hire great teachers then let them do what they were paid for, encouraging their efforts to raise the bar, finding ways outside the texts to make the texts come to life. But that requires not finding security in books. Use the books, use lessons, but teach to the kids, getting them to think for themselves. The teacher is very important, as she/he leads the learning, providing the benefit of his/her education and experience, but not to be the only source. The kids can be their own sources from time to time. Teach well, and the kids can find new ways, perhaps teaching each other.
    Remember, every home schooled teacher, by and large, are almost always leaps ahead of most of their peers. And even if a parent(s) thinks they aren’t qualified, as they learn, use resources, research teaching methods, and apply their own personal life experiences, they will do very well, more so then they at first believed.
    **This leaps and bounds ahead wasn’t always the way, for when I was growing up, things were much different, and America was number one academically, not 16th-30th which some sites indicate today. Times like this places the responsibility, where it always was, with the parents. We, as teachers, must teach to quality, and if we are prevented, must find other avenues.

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