Reflections on a Pandemic School Semester
Five months. 152 days. 3650 hours.
The amount of time that has passed for me teaching second grade through a mask wearing, attitude exposing, sanitizing crazy, social distancing, physically and mentally draining semester in a pandemic.
I’ve seen the memes, gifs, posts, tweets, re-enactments, and parodies of my fellow educators, as we navigated through uncharted territory as we started the 2020-2021 school year. Every one of them had been spot on depicting the highs and lows of teaching virtually, in person, and hybrid.
I was a teacher who started the year prepared with fabric masks (Thanks Mom), face shields for each day of the week, and 5 outfits that I was going to rotate to limit the spread of germs.
I wanted to be in person with the 18 students I saw on my roster. It turns out that 15 would be in person and 3 would learn virtually making me a hybrid teacher.
I didn’t fuss too much. I did my best to figure it out. Walking around the room with a laptop for my virtual learners, then running back to the desk top to change the slide for my in person learners kept me achieving my step goals. I bought a microphone so I could be heard through all my face coverings. I was ready!
A few weeks in, our team decided to have two teacher take all the virtual learners, so I became an i person only teacher. I thought I had entered my own slice of heaven. Things were going to be great.
But let me tell you a few things I wasn’t ready for:
-The constant distance we had to try and maintain, but that was nearly impossible with 18 seven year old's who want to touch, hug, wrestle, and share food all day long.
-The lesson planning to get ahead only to have to cancel all plans when we have to switch to distance learning because your Covid numbers go up.
-The physical stress from trying to keep up with your normal teacher load and the fact that you have also become the head sanitizer in charge in your classroom.
-The mental stress from still being observed professionally when you don’t feel like your normal amazing teacher style can even be witnessed under these circumstances.
-Seeing your teammates and coworkers in tears because they aren’t getting the help they need.
-Feeling like you don’t matter and aren’t appreciated by your parents, board, and sometimes administrators.
Even throughout all those situations I looked forward to venting with those closest to me in the profession, as a release. It showed I wasn’t alone. That nearly all of us were experiencing the same battle. I was determined to give my students the best of me because they deserved it and I could do it.
But then in late October, I was at school feeling horrible. I got dizzy, chills, headache, I could barely walk 2 steps without feeling winded. I left work in the middle of the day. Yep. You guessed it. Covid Positive. Disbelief. I wore my mask, my shields, washed and sanitized, and social distanced, but here I was home for the next 14 days.
Even though my priority should’ve been on my health, I was worried about missing my first observation of the year, what would my students miss. I planned to teach from home, but my body told me otherwise. I was physically weak.
Communication with my students parents reminded me to put me first. They were so supportive. They prayed for me, checked in on me, and never seemed worried about the impact it had on their child that I would be absent for a bit. “We will make it” that’s what I kept hearing.
As I recovered and moved through the rest of the year, that was something I kept saying. “We will make it”.
November was pretty smooth with a few extra days for Thanksgiving Break so graciously given to us. Then the two weeks before winter break in December, we get another doozy thrown our way.
Picture it: A Monday night, home in your jammies, when you get an email saying schools will not be open the rest of the week, and tomorrow will be the last full day because Wednesday through Friday will be distance learning.
Great. So that awesome winter party and days of winter themed activities have to get tossed in the garbage. Right??! Wrong! You call up your teammate say I’m picking you up and we are going up to the school to decorate our rooms for the party tomorrow.
We didn’t leave that building til well after 10pm, but in a time where things are so chaotic, we needed that bit of normal for ourselves and our students.
I can’t say it has been easy, because it hasn’t. I won’t say I haven’t thought about this being my last year, because I have. What I will say is I made it through and I’m still here, unlike so many other educators who have quit or sadly passed after contracting Covid.
Hopefully things continue to improve, but even if they don’t, teachers will do what we have always done. We will make it !