I Am A Teacher: Returning to Education During a Pandemic
This month we are honored to share an anonymous guest blog written by a teacher and parent who is returning to in-person school for the first time since COVID shut down Connecticut in March 2020.
Like many educators and parents, it has been a total roller coaster of emotion, energy, and change. While this shared experience does not represent everyone and it may ruffle a few feathers, we hope that it resonates with some of our readers in a meaningful way.
Wilcox Wellness supports educators, always, and especially now. We fully support parents that are also feeling the immense stress of the start of the new academic year, no matter what your situation is.
When parents and educators honor one another and work collaboratively, it makes a huge difference.
We respect you and we acknowledge your resilience, hard work, and dedication to helping support your children and students.
I’m a teacher.
On March 12, 2020, my district held a meeting of the Board of Education where they made the decision to not follow the rest of humanity’s lead and cancel school for two weeks.
The threat, at that time, was not “present” as there were zero positive cases in town and it was deemed that closing at that point, before positivity had been established, would have been an overreaction.
That was at 7pm. At 9pm, I received a notification on my phone that my district, along with the rest of humanity, was closing for two weeks. In two hours, the landscape of what is then just the “Coronavirus” had changed so drastically that the bombasity and firm refusal to close had already been upended. Two hours.
Therein lies the completely abnormal and ridiculous storyline of the worst season of Earth yet, 2020.
The following day my school held an emergency faculty meeting to try and figure out what exactly we were supposed to do for what was initially believed to be a brief two-week shutdown to deep clean, sanitize, and get things back to whatever normal means.
While of course, fully acknowledging that the idea of “normal” has never been something that exists within a typical high school anyway. We were told to just give some placeholder work to keep the kids “thinking” with the expectation, at least by some, that after two weeks we would have a handle on all of the virus and that on March 30th we would return back to the regularly scheduled program of the normal abnormality that is public education. Plot Twist!
The two weeks came and went. Cases around the country soared. Fear spread like wildfire and as March came to a close, just to be replaced with the three longest months (years?) or our collective careers, we soldiered on.
We had no choice.
So we employed “distance learning,” again, whatever that means to your district.
In 48 hours, our country’s amazing teachers converted materials, redesigned assessments, rethought the notion of critical “feedback,” and reconfigured every other pedagogical notion into a digital realm.
Personally, I was inundated with 100s of emails promising free trials to various digital platforms to streamline education and best provide for my students as “real” as an experience as could be provided in what was the most surreal experience of their lives. Teachers accomplished this without proper and adequate training, we did it without complete knowledge of how our students would respond, and we did it without hesitation. We had no choice.
We made it work...
Now, we are all returning to school in some capacity and I honestly do not know how to feel. I miss my classroom. I miss my students. I miss my people; we all have those teacher people who just get “it” on a cellular level and enable you by their mere presence, to transcend the madness.
But I also know that it’s not going to be the same. 2020-2021 will be year 17 for me. While I do not consider myself a grizzled veteran and realize I have tons still to learn, I also know that I have been doing this long enough to “know” what to do.
But 2020-2021 will also be a second first-year for most of us.
We will adopt new class schedules and meeting times.
We will have safety protocols.
We will somehow try to navigate teaching to a “live” group of students,
all wearing masks and socially “distanced” (insert teacher laugh track), while being expected to provide “synchronous” learning for the many students who are at home, following along as best as possible through the world of tech in real-time.
The word “unprecedented” has been bandied so many times that it now serves to bypass the reality of this situation. But it goes without saying, that this school year will be unlike any we have ever seen. But the advantage we have is that we are teachers. The most obvious and essential component of our profession is one that is not included on the qualifications section of the job posting, it is not presented or “taught” in a graduate course, and is especially not something we list on our resume or CV.
As teachers, I’d argue we are required to be the most flexible humans on earth.
It is pretty typical, regardless of where your certification lies or which population of students you serve, to have every range of emotion elicited upon you over the course of the day.
In my world, I have exhausted juniors first period, "hangry" freshmen 4th, and depressed seniors 9th period melancholic over the end of their high school career and the fact they did not earn early dismissal as a senior privilege.
Within those emotional swings, we prove our immense flexibility as we serve amongst other things as surrogate parents, unqualified councilors, mentors, dart boards, tech experts, and copy machine repair experts. Sometimes we have to teach, too.
The point is that we are flexible and we have, despite budgetary issues, parents that don't fully value our work, recalcitrant students, and HVAC issues, made it work.
And, as the stark reality of COVID in the Classroom lurches closer and closer, I know, despite all of the problems that WILL present themselves, we will make it work. We always have.