I haven’t written a blog post in almost two years.
My very first blog post was on June 23, 2019; between then and August 14, 2019, I wrote a total of 12. At that point, I had finished my 25th year of teaching and had a lot of topics on which I wanted to reflect, to discuss with others who care about and like to think about education. Before I could do that, though, I had to learn how to manage the technology part… how to get the words that I had typed on a Google Doc into Word Press and post them. That is what I did from June 13, 2019, the last day of school until my first post. I read articles, watched YouTube videos, took notes in a binder, brainstormed topics, and ultimately learned how to share my words.
Around that time, my computer stopped working, our car stopped working, my mother-in-law became very sick and passed away just a month later, and school began. It was hectic, busy, and emotional; I would get back to the blog when I could. Although I never would have imagined it would be this long, here I am.
As I looked through my binder of topics I had previously brainstormed, I knew I had plenty– at least a year’s worth– about which to write. However, those topics were written pre-Pandemic. While they are all still relevant and worthy of posts, I first need to write about the impact of the Pandemic on teaching. Yes, this topic will be the focus of multiple blog posts over time. Today, though, I wanted to reflect on how the Pandemic was the worst best professional development I have ever had.
It was the worst for obvious reasons; we were learning how to teach in a different way because of a deadly virus that killed and impacted so many people in so many ways- physically, emotionally, financially; it was devastating.
Educators needed to figure out a way to do even the most basic tasks with students such as how to enter the classroom, how to walk down the hall, how and where to take a sip of water. Academically, the way we did things– handed out assignments, collected them, interacted with students– was almost completely different, though I am so very thankful to work in a district that had been meaningfully using technology and in which all students have an iPad.
Last summer (2020) our district provided a tremendous and varied amount of optional professional development. Even though we still didn’t know the specific details of what teaching in our district would look like, we spent the summer learning skills to help us in a variety of areas. We chose areas about which we wanted to learn more and, as is always the case, district faculty and staff stepped up to share their expertise with us.
While I wouldn’t want to replicate March 2020 to June 2021 on most levels, I did find that it provided the best professional development of my teaching career. If two years ago you had told me that I would be teaching students a single lesson at home from my classroom, I would have panicked and then convinced myself that there was no way I could do it. I would have spent hours upon hours trying to figure out WHAT I would teach and HOW I would possibly be able to do that without students sitting in front of me.
Thanks to the resources provided by my district, access to technology, Google products, and more importantly, support from colleagues, parents, and students, my first day of school in September involved teaching students sitting in front of me and at home synchronously. With some bumps along the way, the single lesson that I never could have imagined teaching was happening every day in every class throughout the whole school year.
Students- as they always do– rose to the occasion. They understood that we were in crisis mode and that we had to work together, we HAD to navigate technology, we HAD to wear masks, and we HAD to follow the arrows when walking down the halls.
In many cases, I found that I was able to connect better with many students; the group sitting in front of me was significantly smaller and alternated each week. For the students who were at home who were required to join our Google Meet daily, we frequently scheduled individual Google Meets for extra help on an essay or for clarification about an assignment. Our interaction was meaningful as we worked together whether in the physical classroom or online.
When school ended this past June, I was excited, hopeful that the fall would be a return to relative normalcy. And while I am still excited to return to school and still hopeful that it will be much more normal than last year , the Delta variant of the virus is spreading and we seem to be — rightly so– proceeding with caution in our daily lives and also as students return to the classroom.
Honestly, I don’t know what this year will bring, though I know it will involve a reset of sorts. I am pretty sure we will be wearing masks regardless of vaccination status. And I am pretty sure we will be teaching in actual classrooms….With three weeks until school begins, there is still much we cannot predict about this year. With that said, there is one thing I can say for certain: I will be ready.
Life since March 2020 has taught all of us that we can adapt and do more than we ever thought possible. We are strong and passionate and devoted to being our best for our students. When you think about it, this is what we do every year as educators. There is a rhythm to the year, but each year is different. Sometimes we don’t think we can get through a particular year… or two… or three…. but we do. We reflect on our experiences each year and grow from them. We become better and make fewer mistakes. Like our students, we rise to the occasion.
I don’t have a working crystal ball to know how the year will turn out, but I am excited to take all that I learned last year and incorporate it into my teaching. The countless hours I devoted to all aspects of teaching last year were an investment, one that will serve me well as I continue to teach in this post (hopefully) Pandemic world.
In case you forgot, I like to end each blog post with questions (called Food For Thought) for you to answer for yourself or to share here.
Food For Thought:
- What was your biggest challenge when teaching during the pandemic?
- What are you most proud of about your teaching during the pandemic?
- What is something new that you incorporated into your classroom during the pandemic that you will continue to incorporate moving forward?