Teaching During COVID: How Teachers Are Adjusting to the Pandemic
While COVID-19 has brought many changes for students, the pandemic has not been easy for teachers either.
As one teacher puts it, “True to the buzzword ‘unprecedented,’ no one knows how to teach like [this]. There aren’t books or blogs or experts that I can reach out to.”
From the abrupt adjustment to online learning to returning to a socially-distant and masked classroom, the world of education has changed, and many teachers grapple with these new challenges.
Parker has been lucky to return in-person this year, but there are still many limitations. Social distancing means group projects and hands-on activities are limited, an aspect of the classroom that many teachers miss.
“I want to work on projects together,” says one English teacher. “I have a dynamic idea and have to strip away the interesting parts.”
In classes like PE, physical contact and group work is usually an integral part of the curriculum, but because of COVID-19, teachers now have “to develop activities that have the proper social distancing,” especially when playing games.
These group projects may also be hindered due to the mix of in-person and remote learning. With most students in-person and some online, designing lesson plans is now a more difficult task.
“I really want to be dynamic and engaging in person and I feel like that doesn’t translate well to online,” one teacher explains. “I feel like I have students I am failing because I’m designing my lessons for the kids in the room.”
Because the pandemic means students may be online, teachers have had to adjust to the new technology. From working with students via Zoom to switching over to Google Classroom, teaching has been a year of endless adaptation.
As a Spanish teacher puts it, “Navigating the amount of virtual real estate, checking that I have closed any windows with personal or sensitive information, and more, has all affected how I plan for my classes and prepare lessons. It adds an inordinate amount of time to planning.”
Beyond the adjustment to online learning, COVID-19 has put immense stress and pressure upon those in the classroom. They feel a constant “mental and emotional exhaustion of fulfilling the expectations of all stakeholders: the board, the leadership, the parents, the students while not being totally sure what those expectations actually are.”
Some teachers even ask themselves, “Is this even relevant? Teaching about some of this stuff in the context of the world feels small,” a sentiment shared by students and teachers alike.
After enduring a pandemic, it’s more important than ever that they have to come to the classroom and maintain an equitable classroom environment.
“We have students who are faced with significant struggles as a result of the pandemic and also those who are barely affected, and everything in between. Teachers have to be mindful of this and find that balance between avoiding excess hardship for those coping with things beyond their control, and keeping everyone engaged and appropriately challenged.”
But teachers aren’t discouraged. While teaching during COVID-19 has been a struggle, they still want to provide students with a successful education.
As one math teacher puts it, “Realistically, there also has to be an adjustment in mentality: I'm not going to be able to do all the things I normally do, and psychologically I have to be okay with that just in order to keep functioning.”
By understanding these struggles, students can make teachers’ jobs easier. To take pressure off teachers, maintain social distancing and monitor each other. Their “job is hard enough without having to yell at students to distance 15 times a day.”
Students have to remember that teachers are adapting to the COVID-19 world as well, and it’s more important than ever to maintain an optimistic outlook.
“Stay as positive as possible,” says one teacher, “It's easy to feel like we're failing at our duty and a bunch of negative energy just further feeds that feeling.”
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help.
“If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, blah, I do want to know because I am for sure going to adjust my lesson, assignments, plan, activities as best I can to support all students' emotional and physical well-being.”
Finally, and most importantly, show kindness. Say thank you, bring in treats, or write a thank you note.
“One vial of mini M&Ms goes a long way.”