Pandemic Teaching: Entry III
The last couple of days before the start of a new school year are an apprehensive time for teachers. We have a hard time sleeping the night before the first Monday. It’s difficult to let go of the freedom of summer. Adjusting to the frenetic schedule of school life is tiring. It isn’t much different than how the kids feel. I think back to my anxiety as a child before the start of the school year. It’s almost the same now, even as a middle aged man. We push down our feelings and get in front of the kids because we are the ones in charge and we want to do our best to make sure our students are more educated and better people after spending a school year with us.
This year our normal teacher anxiety is elevated by the overwhelming new demands of distance learning. This has been exacerbated by my school district’s insufficient support and training. We were required to watch countless hours of “professional development” videos in order to be prepared for the upcoming school year. Worthwhile content comprised a fraction of what was presented to us. And that content was hard to understand and difficult to follow.
On top of this, our school district has had a very challenging time coming up with a plan. Our school administrators received an 80 page opening plan document two school days before opening day. This document was version 5. The directives we receive from one day to the next are not consistent. When one talks to teachers from other schools it also becomes apparent that the directives are not implemented uniformly between schools. I know our school district is operating in unprecedented times and is trying to do the best they can. Their answer has been to throw the kitchen sink at us as teachers and let us figure out what will actually stick.
Fortunately for all of us our teams at the school level have mitigated the school district’s response. I have been so pleased and proud of the way that the administrators and teachers at my school and schools across the county have pulled together to help each other. We have had more help from school based administrators, teachers at our own schools, and colleagues from other schools than from the district. I can’t give the administrators at my school, especially the assistant principals, enough credit for the hours they have volunteered getting us ready. There have also been numerous teachers putting in their own time to help others in their own buildings. We have gotten prepared for this unique year at the local school level, not the district level.
Some of the worry for this school year comes from our genuine concern for the well being of our students. We are just as nervous as parents about this school year. We want your kids, our students, to learn. We worry if this year will be enough. We don’t want anyone to fall behind. We know it’s not perfect and that some kids might not connect this way. Every year we want to reach all of our kids and we know this year it will be even more difficult to achieve that goal. But, it doesn’t mean we won’t try our hardest.
I probably won’t sleep well on Sunday night, the night before the first day of school. But, I will remind myself that everything will be okay. I’m going to work my butt off to make sure my students get the education they deserve. I know it won’t be perfect, but it never is. It will be different this year and that is okay. And I know that my educator colleagues are going to be doing the same. All of the hard working public education professionals and I will again do our part to educate kids of all backgrounds around the country. Here’s to the 2020-2021 school year and all the crazy challenges that it will bring.