During a typical summer by the time July 22 rolls around, most teachers are starting to get back in the school groove. With school usually starting in about a week and a half, most teachers have already started Professional Development sessions, working on their classrooms, thinking about plans for the first week, and considering squeezing in one more day trip to the zoo or weekend getaway. In a normal year, teachers are talking with their colleagues about expectations for the year and planning for Open House.
This isn’t a normal school year; this is a pandemic year.
Instead of getting ready for a start of school the first week of August, many districts have pushed their start dates to the end of August to implement pandemic procedures. Professional Developments have been moved to online, and though the topic for the session said one thing all conversations turn to Covid-19. Working on classrooms is difficult without knowing for sure what setup will be required to look like. Even Open Houses are going virtual for the year! What’s normally an exciting time has become riddled with anxiety and what seems like a million questions about reopening that no one can know the answers to with 100% certainty because no one can predict next week’s Coronavirus numbers.
If you talk to a teacher about the upcoming school year, then you will get a variety of answers. Some are afraid to go back in-person while some can’t wait to be physically back in the classroom. Some are anxious about the possibility of bringing the virus to their own homes or spreading to their own parents with co-morbidities (a term that has become way to “normal” since the pandemic). They may miss in-person instruction, but they also want to stay home to protect their families. There are those who don’t really have an option because their family relies on their income or health insurance who will do as told because when it comes down to it they really have no choice.
Regardless of their position on the return to school, teachers are all thinking some of the same things. What will our group discussions be like without being able to see faces through masks? How will we implement cooperative learning strategies and group work with minimal risk of spreading the virus? What can we expect our schedule to look like so that we can begin to plan for those who have trouble with schedule changes? How can we teach everything we are supposed to while implementing all the pandemic procedures? Of course there is also the biggest question of all: will any of us die from the virus?
With so many unknowns you can see why teachers are having a rough time right now. Luckily, we aren’t alone and have support systems with other teachers. For me, the support has come from two places. One is the Blessing Teacher 2 Teacher group on Facebook. It was started by Kristen Hall and Heidi Hamlyn as a way for teachers to send blessings to one another as we all know that teachers tend to buy for others before themselves. Now, with over 10,000 members, it has become a group where you can openly discuss how you’re feeling about the pandemic, things you need prayers/positive thoughts about, how many jobs you have besides teaching, and much more. It feels like a group of friends supporting one another! My second support system has been my own colleagues. Even though some of us haven’t seen each other since March, all the texts, private messages, video chats, and social media posts show that we have each others backs! These support systems that allow us teachers to talk with one another are current keys to sanity.
For all the non teachers reading this, please be patient with the teachers and other school personnel in your life. They don’t mean to be short with you or antisocial. They don’t mean to be overly emotional or overly preoccupied. They don’t mean to be quickly confrontational. They are trying their best to rest and relax, but with so many unknowns it is very difficult to be positive even for the most upbeat people. Be patient with us. Most of us are okay, but we need you to be patient and not critical.
To everyone, stay safe, stay healthy, and do your best to stay positive!
The Great Kaysby