We, as humans, are not meant to do multiple mutually exclusive activities at once. As a mother, I often multitask; but to do a full time job, homeschool, take care of the kids, and take care of the house is a lot more than we all bargained for. Many teachers are currently having to do just that. They are being asked to do something our minds and bodies were not built for.
Recently I interviewed (via FaceBook Messenger) four teachers. Two of the teachers teach Early childhood and Early Elementary. The other two are Middle and High School Special Education teachers. After interviewing these women, I am truly in awe of their ability to give their students the best online education that they can in the short amount of time they were given, in addition to their own familial responsibilities. Some of the participants have decided to remain anonymous. However their input during their interviews were still invaluable.
My first interviewee was Heather. She teaches Pre-Kindergarten (ages 3 and 4) while also attending to her own two young children (5 and 2 years old). The demographic of her students are mostly Caucasian from the suburbs of Pennsylvania. The school Administration requires that she does a LIVE Zoom lesson from 1-1.5 hours daily. The students are not required to participate. However, the class participation (the children going on Zoom with their family’s help) has been anywhere from fifty to seventy-five percent of Heather’s class.
I asked Heather to give me a rundown of her schedule within that timeframe. She said that she starts at 9:00am. The kids typically talk amongst themselves and then she starts with some songs and exercises. Her pro-tip is to keep the students on mute, until it’s their time to talk. If you have children, then you will know that multiple 3-4 year olds, definitely need to be muted for anything computer related when they don’t really have the same physical structure as typical school.
Overall, Heather has figured out how to keep her own children occupied during the 1-1.5 hours of online teaching. She gives them activities and snacks during that time, but her 2 year old still wants mama as much as possible. While there is definitely a learning curve, Heather seems to be handling the overall stress of the situation very well.
I also interviewed a Kindergarten New York City Charter School teacher as well. She wishes to remain anonymous, but has given me great insight. I will be referring to her as L.C. As most of us know, New York State is one of the hardest hit areas for the Coronavirus currently. Therefore, Remote Learning is essential.
L.C. does not have children of her own. She lives alone; which can be extra isolating during this uncertain time. She said (regarding Online Teaching) “It has been actually a good challenge for me to learn a new way of teaching, and since I live alone, it has been a way to connect with people. It has taken the stress and anxiety away from our current reality.” I find this to be very refreshing and honest.
L.C.’s district wants her to be available for her students from 8:30am-3:00pm. She is required to have at least one LIVE video. However, her district would like at least two videos in total (One live and one pre-recorded). The expectations regarding grading as of now, is that there will be no grades counted for the final quarter of school.
Some statistics about L.C.’s students: They are predominantly African-American. The majority of students (26/27) have been involved with Remote Learning. The parents have been extremely involved. They want to learn how to help their children succeed in this new environment.
Something I found inspiring is what L.C. mentioned in the last part of her interview. She stated “I am looking at this as a way to help out our larger community. If I can help by just being available to ‘watch’ your child for an hour then I did something today.” This statement is why teachers are the backbones of our country.
My next interview was with a Middle School Special Education Teacher. She also wants to remain anonymous, therefore I will refer to her as L.T. She teaches grades 6th – 8th. L.T. also has two children of her own (3 year old and a nursing 9 month old). Her husband and her usually take turns throughout the day watching the kids (as he also works from home). Her day is typically supposed to be from 8:00-3:00pm with a one hour break for lunch. However, with lesson planning, and juggling her own kids’ schedules, her work day lasts much longer that.
Small groups of Special Education students (of all ethnicities and socio-economic status) join L.T. in Remote Learning. This allows her to give specific instructions to all of her students. Additionally, parents have reached out for guidance on how to help their children thrive in this new environment. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Her district recommends the slow and steady approach. It can be overwhelming for everyone; therefore slow and steady will help everyone get the best results.
L.T. said something that really struck a chord. She said “It’s important for teachers with young kids to know that it’s okay if I can’t ‘do it all’ right now because while I have a job to do, I also have mom responsibilities that has to take priority. ‘Grace’ is one of my words for 2020 and I think now more than ever I need to manifest that.” This is so imperative for all of us to understand. Yes, most of us have jobs to do while we’re at home, but we have to give ourselves grace and be parents and partners first.
My last interview was with Erin. She is a High School Special Education teacher for High School students, as well as Post 12 students ages 18-21 in a Pennsylvania suburban school. Her students consist of mixed demographics. They are also all at different learning disability levels.
Erin mentioned that 70-80% of her students have been involved with this new forum. No parents have reached out as of yet, but she is more than happy to help them if they do. The expectations from her School District, is that Remote Learning work will count as 10% of an overall Grade in addition to the other 3 quarters. Therefore, it will count, but not enough to bring down a student’s grade too much.
Additionally, Erin has two small children at home (4 year old and a nursing 1 year old). Both of them require attention and it can definitely take its toll mentally. Due to the obvious change of routine, she has noticed that her 1 year old has wanted to nurse more often. She still is balancing her home life and work life as best as she can given the circumstances.
Erin said that what she started doing to help her with the mental load of everything is Alone Time. What is Alone Time? Between 7:00pm and 8:00pm everyday, everyone does their own thing separately. The 4 year old plays in her room, the baby is asleep, and Erin and her husband do their own separate things as well. She said this has helped her stress and anxiety during this crisis tremendously.
Not All SuperHeroes Wear Capes:
Teachers may not be on the frontlines saving lives; but they are creating material they’ve never created before. They are using their knowledge to figure out how to teach all students of all learning types, genders, race, ethnicity, etc. They are giving parents of younger children (and some older ones) a much needed break. They are engaging students through a screen. They are giving their all when the world is crumbling around them. They are shielding their students from the idea that the last time they’ll be in their class will most likely be through a screen and not face to face. Oh, and most of them are doing this while they also have a family of their own to take care of.
On a personal level, I witnessed my 6 year old sit still and pay attention for 45 minutes during a Zoom meeting with his Kindergarten teacher and his class. I watched in astonishment, as each child waited their turn to speak. They listened to their teacher talk to each one of their friends and them. My son hasn’t sat that still for me… EVER! So, I may just ask his teacher to just leave the Zoom video running for all the kids, and she can go about her day. I mean… it’s kind of a genius idea, right?
Teachers… Thank you! Thank you for sacrificing so gracefully. Thank you for loving your students and your family. Thank you for balancing everything, even though it should be impossible.