Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to medical professionals working on the front line of COVID-19 care in Fresno. This week, I want to turn the spotlight on another very important group rising the meet the challenges of this unprecedented time: teachers. As school closures extend through the end of the current school year, educators are faced with a challenge none of us would have expected just a month ago – now, teaching must move to the online space for all public students for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
I reached out to teachers this week to collect their candid thoughts and feelings on being thrust into the distance-learning world, what they really hope their students and their families know during this time, and what their expectations for home learning look like. As I did in last week’s article, I’ve assigned pseudonyms so you can hear the candid thoughts of these experienced and caring educators.
FresYes: What have your feelings been like since the announcement from the Governor that schools would not re-open this school year?
“Amanda”, 7th grade teacher from Fresno Unified: This year has surely shown us that we truly have no idea what the future holds. I cannot believe that school is out for the entire year. It is devastating, and I am heartbroken.
“Mary”, 1st grade teacher from Fresno Unified: The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions. I am heartbroken. I know its for the best, but I am extremely sad.
“Gia”, 2nd grade teacher from Clovis Unified: At first it was completely surreal. On March 13th, I did a science lesson and afterwards excused my class like I do every Friday. After school a teacher whose husband works for Fresno Unified came and told me that they were closing till spring break and that she was pretty sure we would do the same. I couldn’t believe it! The last 2 and a half weeks have just been a rush to modify classwork and provide support and instruction in this new way!
“Erica”, kindergarten teacher from Central Unified: My heart breaks at the realization that I won’t get to be with my class to end the year, and to get those last hugs and award them with their last certificates of achievement. Ultimately, I know this is for their health and safety and that’s what I want for them above all else.
FresYes: What are some of your biggest concerns in regard to the weeks ahead, until the end of the school year?
“Gia”, 2nd grade teacher from Clovis Unified: Right now, I’m looking for ways to make online instruction meaningful and engaging for kids. It’s a real learning curve! Ironically about a week before this happened, I remember teaching a math lesson and being profoundly proud of my kids and all they had accomplished. I remember thinking, we are here! They did it! These kids are finally able to do all of the things I have taught them! When the decision to close first happened I remember thinking, “What in the world will we do? These kids will lose so much of what they have learned if they miss three weeks of school!”
My biggest concerns are for the kids who are not completing the daily work and the kids who have special learning needs. I am worried about the kids who are not engaging online with me or actively participating in lessons. I know not all parents can monitor their child’s daily learning. I am fortunate because my families for the most part, have been able to let their child interact with me daily and are completing assignments.
“Mary”, 1st grade teacher from Fresno Unified: I’m concerned about whether our students are staying safe, healthy, and their families have basic needs to withstand these unprecedented times.
FresYes: Given the circumstances, what do you think the best-case outcomes look like for kids doing learning activities from home? What are your expectations for parents?
“Gia”, 2nd grade teacher from Clovis Unified: The best-case outcome would be that kids maintain the learning they already achieved without sliding back. For kids who are independent learners, I believe they can be completely on track if their teachers are providing lessons they would be getting at school. I want parents to know it is okay to reach out to their teachers A LOT! That first week so many parents would send me messages that started with, “I am sorry to bug you, but…” I just kept saying that they were not bugging me. I want them to reach out and not struggle with something before they ask for help. I hope that they check their child’s schoolwork when possible. I want them to expect their kids to do quality work, be respectful and attentive during online meetings, and to work independently when possible.
I do not expect parents to spend their entire day “teaching”. I do not expect them to know or understand all of what we do every day. I talk to my students daily and tell them that although it seems unfair, we are so fortunate to be able to see each other and talk every day.
“Mary”, 1st grade teacher from Fresno Unified: I want parentsto be ok with whatever they can offer. I hope they spend time enjoying each other. What are my expectations for parents? I don’t have any. What is don’t want is for families to stress over not doing enough.
“Erica”, kindergarten teacher from Central Unified: For my kids, I just want them to have access to books and stress-free activities. Stress free as in paperless. Packets are good and all, but also so boring. For my kiddos, I want parents to know it’s okay to let them play in the mud, it’s okay to pull out the watercolors and glitter. It’s okay to let their children help them make dinner. They will learn more by doing at this age than anything else. PLAY PLAY PLAY… and read and have conversations.
FresYes: If you could tell your students anything right now – what do you want them to know? Anything else you’d like people to know?
“Gia”, 2nd grade teacher from Clovis Unified: I would like people to know that for the most part, teachers are doing the best they can. We are really coming together as educators! I want the very best for my students, and I hope that we all come through this stronger than before and with a greater sense of respect and cohesiveness.
“Amanda”, middle school teacher from Fresno Unified: I want my students to know they are a gift. I’m wishing many blessings to my 8th graders going on to high school – may they all flourish.
“Mary”, 1st grade teacher from Fresno Unified: I’m thinking about them always. I miss their hugs, and that together we will get through this and be together (in person) again someday!
“Erica”, kindergarten teacher from Central Unified: At school, one of the hardest things to do well as a teacher is provide the one on one interaction that all kids need. Especially for us TK/Kinder and even 1st grade teachers. Parents are in this great position to provide that right now. Any child would absolutely love to get that attention from their parents or siblings right now. Also, you don’t have to spend 8 hours a day on learning activities. 2-3 hours a day tops is great.