Monday, June 5, 2023

How We Teachers Handle the COVID-19 Crisis Will Leave a Lasting Impact

There is nothing I love more than walking into my classroom every morning to a room of empty desks, knowing they will soon be filled with faces I have come to love. This is why so many of us teach. The human connection. The joy, laughter, and giggles as well as the tears, frustration, and excitement. We love nothing more than the interactions that we have with our students everyday. From a high five or an excitedly raised hand to watching a student take on a challenge, and seeing a face brighten as they feel confident with the topic being mastered. Educators love this. I love this.

It is hard to believe that an invisible invader like this virus could change the face of our profession in what feels like an instant. One day we are surrounded by our students and the next we are not sure when we will see their faces again. I can tell you, if I knew that my district would have to close due to COVID-19 months ago, I would have given twice as many hugs and high fives. 

This virus has wracked our nation and shaken up school as what we’ve always known it. There was not enough warning or advanced planning for the impactful affect it would cause. Not one of us came into the profession ever thinking we would be teaching from home. The thought is stressful, worrisome, and uncomfortable for so many of us, but we have got this, we have no choice. We are educators, it is what we do. We put kids first. We put education first.

Education is powerful. It is what allows us to transcend what we think we know, what we are told, what we believe into something tangible, meaningful, and logical. We as educators are charged to uphold a high level of standard so that every child grows to become the very best version of themselves. 

Can we do this from home with distance learning? I think we can. It will not be perfect at first, but nothing is. We are on a learning curve ourselves, extending our thinking, creativity, and problem solving the same way we push our students to do so. This is a time for our voice, our expertise, our collaboration, and our work ethic to shine. 

Many districts are being required to submit plans for how this learning would look for students. We as teachers know what they need. Our voice matters as we are the ones who have spent this year cultivating relationships, know our curriculum, and understand how to deliver high quality work. So what do we need to do? 

  • Voice: Share with your school district what you believe will matter most to continue the education of your students at home. Draft a proposal of what you think Virtual Learning will look like for your grade span, ask questions, and give recommendations. 
  • Be Flexible: This is new for everyone. It will involve time, thought, and mistakes. Be gentle on yourself and others. Allow time for students to get the hang of what is expected and know that all families run on different schedules. 
  • Offer Support: We are all still at different places in how we utilize technology. Some of us are stronger at it than others. Some of us have more resources than others. Create a document of resources and be ready for a conference call to help someone in need.
  • Stay Consistent:  Although this seems like a perfect opportunity to focus on review material, stay the course. Continue on with the year and curriculum as previously planned —in terms of content—to ensure the level of academics remains high.
  • Communicate: We miss our students, and they will miss us. Email, Google Meet, and Communication Apps are all excellent ways to stay in touch and remind them we are always there whether to answer a curriculum question or to just say a simple hello. 

How we handle ourselves during this national crisis will leave a lasting impact with all of our students. COVID-19 is now a part of our collective history. We want this generation of students to remember that in a time of crisis we stayed calm, we worked hard, and we always put their education first. In doing so, we are not only teaching academics, we are educating this future generation about resilience and leadership.

Kristen Rhodes Beland
Kristen Rhodes Beland is a 2019-20 Teach Plus Rhode Island Policy Fellow. A returning Fellow, Kristen is a 4th grade teacher in North Kingstown, RI. Previously, she served as an integration specialist implementing the SmART program developed by Brown University and has been involved in the integration of technology into the district, leading professional development in digital citizenship.


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