Teaching in the time of COVID-19
I can't imagine teaching right now.
I was a teacher for 15 years. I taught kids from 2nd grade through high school, and I can't imagine being a teacher during this pandemic.
Despite how it may appear from the outside looking in, teaching is hard.
Imagine, if you will, having 20 plus children, just like your own, in a room and keeping them engaged in the same activity for an extended period of time.
And that's just part of the job.
A teacher's day doesn't start when the first bell rings and end when the dismissal bell rings.
There are duty stations before and after school, there are meetings before and after school, there is tutoring before and after school, there are extracurricular activities and clubs that require sponsors, there is grading student's work, creating lesson plans, filling out various reports, studying state test scores, communicating and meeting with parents.
There are team meetings, grade level meetings, all staff meetings and professional development meetings. The list goes on and on.
These things don't happen between the first bell and the last bell.
Keeping a room full of children interested and engaged for an extended length of time is no easy task. It requires planning. And when things don't go as planned, there needs to be a fallback plan.
I spent a lot of Sundays creating lessons for the next week and completing formal lesson plans to be turned in to my supervisor.
Teachers have to monitor student progress and report that information to parents and school personnel in the form of report cards, which requires grading student work.
I spent a lot of evenings in front of the TV grading student work. I graded student work while attending my own children's baseball and softball practices.
Over the years, I learned some shortcuts, but it was never an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. endeavor.
In addition, there's the classroom management aspect, minimizing disruptions, handling behavior issues, monitoring 20-plus children to ensure they are staying on task.
And now, COVID-19 has thrown a whole new monkey wrench into the works.
Not only must a teacher deal with the usual classroom management issues, now they have to make sure every student is following the COVID-19 safety protocols in the classroom.
I can't imagine trying to keep students masked up, or making sure they are not trading masks.
I can't imagine having to make sure students are washing their hands routinely and keeping socially distanced.
I can't imagine having to sanitize my entire classroom repeatedly throughout the day.
Now, there is in-person, face-to-face teaching in the classroom and virtual teaching for students that opt not to return to the classroom, which doubles the workload.
I have heard from former co-workers about the hours they have had to spend learning new programs to implement the virtual lessons and creating both an in-person version and a virtual version of every lesson.
I can't imagine trying to convert every lesson to a virtual lesson as well as in person lesson.
The virtual teaching comes with hurdles of its own, as well, like keeping students engaged, monitoring student activity, grading student work, and keeping tabs on student attendance.
All of this requires time, and the teacher's day is not set up to accommodate that extra time. That comes from personal time. Just like the lesson planning and grading that I spent my personal time doing, but more so.
In addition to the increase workload, there is increased stress.
One of my former co-workers said he was up until 2 a.m. some nights working on virtual lessons, tracking virtual student attendance and completing the required reports for the virtual learning program.
Learning and implementing new technology programs and all the issues that go along with that, like faulty internet, program glitches, etc., is making an already stressful situation even more stressful.
I have heard from teachers that are ready to quit, because they don't feel like they are getting the support they need to do the job they are being asked to do.
I loved the connections I made with the students in my classroom. Whether it was 25 in one classroom or as many as 165-plus that came to me for one class period each day.
I enjoyed seeing them everyday. I genuinely cared for each and every one of them and thought of them as "my kids" and still do all these years later.
I know every other teacher feels the same way.
Teaching is 24/7, because when a teacher is not with their students, they are thinking about their students, worrying about their students, wondering what they can do better for their students.
As rewarding as it is to develop those relationships, and knowing that you made a difference sometimes, teaching is hard.
And as much as I miss those connections, I can't imagine teaching right now.
Cathie Crew is a reporter for the Pioneer. She can be reached at email@example.com.