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Pandemic Teaching: Entry V

Holy $%&#!!! It was only a short work week and it felt like I worked two weeks straight with no weekend break. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed as a teacher since my first year of teaching. I know my feeling of treading water is shared throughout the educational world these days. It is felt by teachers, administrators, and students.

My students seem all right during class. But, maybe that is the problem. They all act like they are fine. When I ask if there are questions at the end of class the awkward silence, (online awkward silence might be worse than in person awkward silence) that occurs for a few moments making seconds seem like hours. I guess that means they don’t have questions. Yet, when I go through grades I have more missing assignments and more Fs in the first half of the first quarter than I have had in the last five total years of teaching combined.

I don’t want to take the easy route and say the students are being lazy. This is a whole new experience for these kids. They have been trained to have teachers in their face every class reminding them to turn in their assignments. Now, we remind our students to complete the daily assignments, but they have to turn them in themselves, nobody is collecting them. This is a challenge. I see my students doing the work, but they just don’t turn them in.

Or again, maybe the problem is I see what looks like them doing the work, but really I have no clue what they are actually doing. They could be doing anything else and in many cases probably are. Their computer is on and nobody is monitoring what they are doing. In some of my classes I see 10-12 students on the live camera feed and another 30-35 students whose cameras are not on. I ask them to turn on their cameras two or three times during class. But, I can’t pressure them too much. I don’t know their computer situation or their home situation. Maybe they don’t have a camera, maybe their internet is slow, maybe they are next to their four other siblings doing distance learning and they don’t want their peers to see that, maybe they think they look like crap and they don’t want the class to see the only thing the camera focuses on, their faces. The students who are on the camera seem to be working, the other students seem to be doing …….. I have no idea. According to the grades they aren’t doing their work.

I feel bad for my students. They are missing out on the things that give school life meaning. They are students, but the aspects that make being a student meaningful are absent for them. They don’t get to hang out with their friends. They don’t get to play sports. They don’t get to go to games. They don’t get to participate in their clubs. They don’t get to go to high school dances. We are keeping them safe while at the same time stripping meaning from their lives. I try to make my class fun and I think most of my students enjoy it. But, how much fulfilment does government, English, math, science, and online physical education add to a teen’s life without the social aspects to go along with them?

Part of why we as teachers are overwhelmed is the direction and guidance from our administrators keep changing. This isn’t done by the administrators in a purposeful way. As a teacher I can tell that they are overworked and overburdened. They have too much to do. I often get calls from my assistant principals at five or six o’clock at night when they are finally finished with their duties at school. They aren’t even able to return my calls until that time. Then when they get home they will have more emails or texts to address. The demands and pressures on them are nonstop. We all can see that they are staying afloat as minimally as we teachers are.

The shifting demands on our school administrators and us as teachers derives directly from our school district. Our district leaders are still trying to figure out what to do. They are new to this system as well. They encounter a problem and then they tell all of us to fix it. To them it doesn’t really matter how much more work that entails for us at the school level. They give us a directive on a fix and we have to do it. Family life, mental health, hobbies, and time for sleep aren’t a consideration.

As a teacher I have more administrative and clerical duties to perform with this model of education than I have ever had to do in my 18 year career. I have meetings with several students a day who need extra help, who missed a class, or who don’t have the proper technology. I have to change my lessons from the traditional in-person classes to online class form. That alone takes up dozens of hours a week. I am supposed to double and triple check my students’ progress, attendance, and logins to the digital platform. I have to grade assignments from each class. With 205 students and an average of five minutes an assignment, that alone is over 17 hours of grading for each assignment. This is on top of teaching!!! LMAO. I just finished with week three of teaching and my candle is about burned out.

To make this all worse, or maybe just hilarious, we get different directives from the district on a regular basis. We get them from our school-based administrators and then take out our frustration on them because they have to be the ones to tell us the new requirements and expectations. That means I have to change how I grade, how I enter grades, how I communicate with parents, and how many times I have to check on each student’s progress. All of this without a change to our base pay. All of this after the legislators in Nevada just decided to cut education funding in Nevada. Thanks lawmakers.

This distance learning experiment is causing a lot of strain across the spectrum, although at times it has gone better than I had expected. I am left to wonder, along with many others, how long this can last. It almost feels like slow methodical torture. We are all dying educationally one day at a time; students, teachers, and administrators. How long can we keep doing this? I sure am glad this wasn’t my first year of teaching. I don’t know if I would have been in this career as long. But, I love my job and career, so I’m not leaving. I have the benefit of knowing that this won’t last forever. I can make it through and will at some point be back in the education environment that I love.

I know this was a pessimistic entry, but this is the general feeling in CCSD right now. Plus, I have to stay positive and optimistic all week long in front of my students. At some point, we as educators, have to let our frustration out. I will keep hanging on and working more than I have worked in the past. And during all of my classes I will be smiling and having a good time, while hoping that this will end sooner rather than later.


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