Teaching in a Pandemic: Day 45

This is my attempt to document and process returning to the classroom during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Today marks the end of the first trimester of this school year. I haven’t written much (aside from evening journaling) in these last couple of months because teaching keeps me busy. Teaching in a pandemic exhausts me beyond comprehension. I come home every evening, a dead man walking, take a shower to decontaminate myself (I’m not sure if this is necessary, but my germ-phobic brain feels relief after I have washed away the day in hot, soapy water), check in with my family (my own kids are doing remote learning, so I usually have a punch list of technology troubleshooting or reteaching), and then start making dinner. I am usually asleep by 9:00 PM every night. Sometimes 8:30 PM. I spent some time today flipping through my journal entries over the last two months and I am positive that I have no more insight now than I did in August. There are some recurring themes.

I’m still struggling

Teaching is a difficult profession. Even with 20 years of experience, overall, it really doesn’t get much easier. Sure, I have become more proficient over the years at the daily juggling of tasks, and I like to think that my pedagogy and craft has improved, but teaching is always a challenge. I always strive to try new things. I redesign my lesson plans, my classroom layout, and my even my instructional approach depending on the day or the student or time of year. At its best, learning is a social act. Student collaboration and discussion are essential elements of an engaging classroom experience and promote deep understanding.

Student connections

I don’t feel like I am connecting with my students. There seems to be a huge barrier that is preventing us from bonding (aside from the masks, face shield, and 3-feet of distance). I can’t shake their hands in the morning. I can’t high-five them when they make a new connection to what they are learning. I can’t give them a hug when they are hurting. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of my students was stung by two bees while we were outside in the last minutes of the day before the bell rang. It was first time she had ever been stung by a bee and she was crying. Instinctively, I went to hug her and take her to the nurse. I hesitated and in that second, I wrestled with how I could comfort her. I opted for a hand on her back while I led her to the school nurse. Then I ran to a nearby sink to wash my hands.

We over Me

https://www.pqc.edu/about-paul-quinn/

Fear and more fear

I am scared every day. My teammates are scared every day. Any time a student is absent, we are not told any information about the nature of their absence. I understand the need for student privacy; however, with any potential COVID-19 infection impacting my own health, I feel like I have a right to know something. Are they getting tested for the coronavirus? Is there a concern that they might be infected? Should I be tested again? Instead, my teammates and I know nothing, so we fear the worst. Continual fear makes me feel powerless. The day-to-day stress of teaching in a pandemic is hard enough without the constant fear that I could be exposed to COVID-19 at any time, and I wouldn’t know if I was exposed because I am only getting tested once every two weeks. COVID-19 positivity rates are continuing to rise in our community. I suspect that there are more cases of COVID-19 than are being reported because there just has to be based on available data. If the original metrics to determine whether we would be in-person or remote were being used today, our school district would be closed. Instead, the metrics have changed and we are continuing with in-person learning under misnomer that our schools are safe.

Cynicism and academic apathy

Teaching during this pandemic is turning me into a cynic. I can feel myself caring less and less for playing by the rules of the educational system. Why? Why do I need to assign grades based on content standards? Why do I need to assign homework? Does it really matter if students do anything academic this year? What if I can’t motivate students to meet the grade-level benchmarks? I don’t feel like I have anything external that I can hold over students because so much of this school year feels like a mulligan year. Will grades count? Will there be standardized testing? Unfortunately, all of this cynicism erodes my passion for teaching. I want school and learning to be fun! I want students engaged, not because of fear they will get a poor grade, but because they are excited about the learning and connecting that learning to the real world. The coronavirus has made teaching not only difficult, but miserable. I feel more like a strict babysitter than an inspired educator.

Complain, complain, complain

My students complain all day every day. They complain when they hear the morning announcements and the schedule for the day. They complain when they hear what we will be doing at the beginning of a lesson or project. They complain during the lesson or project. They complain when I put them in groups. They complain when I separate them because they are fighting in their groups. They complain about wearing masks. They complain about sitting all day. They complain about washing their hands. They complain, complain and complain some more.

https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/11914

I am a learning experience designer. I’m an intellectual thinker. I push the boundaries of what’s possible. I have lots stories to tell and change to make.

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