Be a teacher they said. You’ll love it, they said. Well, they weren’t lying. I love being a teacher. What they didn’t tell me, was that my heart would always be full of love for children years after passing through my door. Teaching is a very rewarding profession. It has never been without its challenges. Layer on a global pandemic, and teaching becomes so much more.
Teachers were the support of not only their students, but their families as well, during the onset of the pandemic. We had to teach students how to use Zoom and Teams and other programs, as well as some parents. We have had to offer support to parents trying to navigate Google Classroom,
Frog, VLE, Schoology, Seesaw and many other programs, whilst many of us were learning how to use these products ourselves.
Pandemic teaching for many of us seemed to be a daunting task. Yes, we knew how to teach, but how would this work with us in separate spaces? We started with Zoom. We made and maintained relationships virtually. We graduated to all of the apps and programs that were offered to us. Again, we mastered that.
Next came returning to in class learning while living through a pandemic. I think this was the most challenging part of teaching during a pandemic. The possibility of going back on remote at a moment’s notice had teachers in a constant state of unease. We were trying to focus on the lesson at hand, while keeping an ear open for when we would be returning to home. “Have I prepared my students enough to work without me being there while they are working on this concept?”
Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers. The ability to watch students grow and develop right before your eyes is so rewarding.
Teaching during a pandemic has definitely put a spin on things. Students are looking to teachers to help keep normalcy in their lives. When sitting down to write this, I thought of which approach I should take. Should I do the be prepared and organized route? But then I felt like we as teachers are always prepared and organized. Should I take the more personal route and tell teachers to look out for themselves? Then I thought, why not combine the two. Balance. Balance is the key to life.
Be prepared for anything! As teachers, this is usually second nature. We plan amazing lessons everyday, but anything can happen to disrupt our perfect, laid plans. Fire drills, forgotten dental nurse visits, or students not as ready for the content, can have us pivoting. During the pandemic, that means going from in person learning to remote learning at a moment’s notice. Right now, having the ability to be prepared for whatever the next directive will be is very important. Being flexible is one of the most important traits a teacher can have.
Take time to decompress. Teachers make many minute by minute decisions in a day. Students have different needs at different times, and teachers need to be able to accommodate each student when needed. Did this student take their asthma medicine? What time does this student need to be in the office for a dentist appointment? This student needs to take the make-up science test. At the end of the day, all of this information needs to be compartmentalized. Let go of the day. Put your thoughts away.
Self Care. We have heard all about self care over the last two years. I have learned to embrace this concept. I thought self care meant going to the spa as often as I could. Whilst that would be enjoyable, it was not as feasible as I thought. I learned to take care of myself as best as I could. I took my dog for long walks and enjoyed my views. Sometimes my self care routine was sipping on a hot cup of new tea that I found at the store on my shopping day, while my family was in bed. I found self care to be something that made me happy. It seems simple enough, but it seemed like we were in fight or flight mode for an extended period of time and everything was more important than me. Self care allowed me to forget my stresses for a while.
Be patient and empathetic. Whilst I enjoyed my schooling, it was a time to socialize and experience life. While learning Shakespearean plays, I cannot imagine doing my schooling during a pandemic. It was stressful and demanding. Add on a pandemic and I’m not sure where I would have ended up. Teachers have had to understand that students are in a pandemic as well.
Shakespeare himself could not have imagined what we have been experiencing the past 2 years.
I think the most important tip I can offer for teaching during a pandemic is to have a great support system. This includes teacher friends, who can help you when needed in the classroom. However, I have found that the support from the students’ parents and my family have also been a great help.
As the pandemic drags on, the teaching is starting to feel more natural. Switching between in person and remote is getting easier. I have learned to not sweat the small stuff and take one day at a time. I have also learned that my students are resilient. They have learned far more than I ever could have imagined. Pandemic teaching is not something that Teacher College ever could have prepared us for. So to all the pandemic teachers out there, I salute you! Thank you for showing up each day not knowing what the fates will throw at you, and handling it as professionally as you can.