Confessions of a Teacher

Opinion: Right Now Things Are Hard, But It’s Going to Be Fine

Right now, things are hard. Nothing feels fine, or normal. As we all know, teaching in person is different than teaching online. There are many things that we as educators are dealing with right now. How do we ensure that our students are learning, when there are some students without the ability to attend online school? What about the students who are working, or helping watch their siblings? What about students who rely on schools for two of their three meals, or the students who view school as a safe place where they are cared for and listened to? 
How do we continue to educate our students, while addressing those needs? Many districts, mine included, are continuing to offer breakfast and lunch to students, bringing food out to different parts of the community via the buses. Many districts also offer the work in packet-form, so students without the internet can access the material, in addition to virtual learning.
Changes Are Hard Everywhere
But even the online systems are not perfect. Sometimes, servers go down or assignments get lost. Zoom and Google Hangouts are great tools, but some students cannot connect with them due to their devices or access to the wi-fi- highlighting the fact that many students do not have access to the internet.
At the beginning of the month, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos encouraged schools to continue to teach students new material. While this is a good idea, in theory, it is a little more challenging in practice. With not all students having equal access to their teachers or even the material, can we reasonably expect them to all master new material?
My classes were lucky. In the spring, we are finishing up testing and then going back over a few major concepts that I want to make sure they understood. For my students, it was just a new way to look at old concepts, and that can be done at home.  Other subjects don’t have that ability. There are things that students are missing, and they know that. Many have been reaching out, and these messages, calls, and emails are, often, full of panic. 
Student Response to the Pandemic
As I am responding to students and going over information with them, I find myself saying two things the most. First, I am constantly telling kids that it is okay. They have time to get things done. We are all confused right now and working to understand. It’s going to be fine. I am also reminding students that my class should not be the most stressful thing in their lives right now. If it is, they need to let me know so we can adjust things. 
Students are nervous. For fifth-graders and eighth-graders, they are missing the chances to finish the year strong and to visit their new schools. For my seniors, they are upset. This is the time of the year when all the fun parts of being a senior happen. Prom, senior trips, graduation…all of that is up in the air for them, and while they are trying to not be selfish, they are still upset. But other things, like spending time with friends and finishing up the process of getting ready for college, are all much more challenging now. 
The best thing to say to them, it seems, is to tell them that we know it is hard. We will get through this. We are there for them. Next year, their teachers will know what they need to catch up on and help them get where they need to be.
We are all doing what we can, and it will be fine. Click To Tweet
There have been a ton of articles about how parents, teachers, administrators, and students are all doing their best. For many of us, that is the most important thing to remember. We are going forward one step at a time. Things are changing rapidly, and students are having a lot thrown at them. If we as educators are feeling overwhelmed at times, I can only imagine how my students must feel! 
It’s Going to Be Fine
Access to technology and access to food have always been problems, but now these things will be harder to ignore. Hopefully, that means that these issues will no longer be ignored. Anything students miss this year will be covered next year. They will be okay. And we will be okay too. 
I don’t have any advice to offer here, or any grand ideas, just a reminder that I am going to pin on my wall soon. We are fine. We’re all doing our best. We (teachers, students, parents, and administrators), will get through this. 

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