Updated: May 11, 2021
"Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher." - Japanese Proverb
Even though we should express admiration for educators year round, this week in particular we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. The past school year has looked very different for teachers, administrators, students, and parents. Many caregivers had to jump into the role of educator as schools went to remote and/or hybrid learning during the pandemic. For students who were still in-person learning the classroom looked a lot different as schools implemented social distancing, required masks, and eliminated normal extracurricular activities like sports and events.
Katie is an Assistant Dean at a community college and Amanda taught kinetic wellness and health at the high school level for over 7 years. We both have an education background and began to wonder how others felt about their experience during this unprecedented time. We reached out to teachers, administrators, parents, and students to share their journey as we honor and recognize educators this week.
(Hybrid & In Person Learning)
#1 No amount of years of experience could have prepared any educator for pandemic teaching. It is wanting to cry, yell, hide, and give up all in one day. It will go down as truly one of the biggest mental challenges I have faced.
The pandemic has been hard on everyone and teachers and students are no exception. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this school year was actually 3, and I even went on maternity leave! However, I am really proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to meet students needs and provide meaning instruction (as best as possible) in a remote and pandemic setting.
As hard as it has been, I feel fortunate that my school district provided us with all of the tools we could possibly need to succeed. I know not all teachers can say that. I’m grateful for the huge investment that was made on students and teachers in terms of technology and safety. I never imagined that working remotely would be a possibility and now I don’t think we’ll ever go a year without incorporating it in some capacity.
I’ll never forget this experience, it was a shit show, yes, but I was also able to enjoy the majority of my second pregnancy at home with my husband and son, and that was truly a gift.
(Online Instruction & eLearning)
Initially the conversion to online format was very time consuming and overwhelming. I've learned so much along the way and have had great support which allowed me to be able to successfully run my program. Without those people I would have stopped teaching. I really enjoy the ability to log on and meet students one on one to give them a more personal experience without their peers listening to what subject matter they're struggling with.
There are children in the classrooms! What a ridiculous exclamation. Of course there are children in the classroom. Isn't that what they are for? Not over the past year.
I am an assistant principal in a suburban public school district. You have not seen eerie until you've seen teachers alone in their classroom talking to a computer screen. They are teaching.
My building happens to be focused on 3-5 year olds. Preschool and kindergarten. But instead of children bouncing through the halls, the majority of the year was spent seeing their teachers on a screen.
But teach they did. Before Covid, we'd talk about how everyone was at a different level in their use of technology. Not any more. Our staff took the challenge and learned Zoom, Google Meet, interactive polls, jamboards, the list goes on and on.
Despite their best efforts, staff meetings were filled with teachers feeling they were not doing enough. Coming to terms with what they could not control over a screen was hard. They missed the joy, the high fives, the interactions.
Then there was the parents. They were now students in the class as well. We NEVER could have made it without the help of the parents. Many of them were angry and understandably so. They didn't plan on being their child's classmate. Many of them did a great job but many couldn't. After all, there were still bills to be paid.
There are children in the classroom! They are back, at least some of them. It looks different. Little faces covered in masks, socially distanced tapped off areas for play and don't forget those who did not come back. They are on the screen. Participating as best as they can. It's better but not normal. Who knows if it will ever be.
This week marks teacher appreciation week. Our administrative team has lots of "Covid friendly" activities planned to show how much we appreciate the staff. Please, take a minute, send a note, an email. Tell the teachers you see them and all they are trying to accomplish. They don't want gifts, they want to work with your children. For that we should be eternally thankful. Tell them so.
Parent Perspective (Remote Learning) #1
After the year we endured parenting during this pandemic, there are words and phrases that I’m pretty sure will trigger PTSD in most of us; social distancing, quarantine, 6 feet apart, and unprecedented times just to name a few. However, one of the largest impacts the pandemic has had on me was the difficult decision of in person vs. eLearning for my 4 year old son.
We were enrolled in a private school program and set to begin the school year in the classroom. Many of the families we are friends with, decided to give it a whirl and see how the year started in person. No one had a clue as to what the road ahead would look like.
As time went one, my anxiety kicked in more and more. After weeks of deliberation I decided to withdrawal my son from his school and enroll him in full elearnring through our public school district. As a teacher turned stay at home mom, I felt this was the best decision. Enrolling in an e learning program would take pressure off of me for daily activities while trying to wrangle my two year old daughter and keep my sanity while quarantined. I also knew I could supplement with my own activities and lessons for him. It also assured me that he would be preparing for kindergarten in what I felt, was the safest way at this point.
Fast forward 6 months and we are now in our final weeks of our elearning preschool journey. We were truly blessed with an amazing teacher who did the best with such a unique situation. I was also lucky to have a son who looked forward to “school” every afternoon. Was it ideal? No. Was it challenging? Absolutely. Do I want to do this ever again? Hell no! But it was the right decision for us. I’m grateful we had this option. Although I feel my son is academically ready for kindergarten, I plan to hire a teacher to work with him this summer for a more personal experience before he starts school in the fall.
Being a mom in a pandemic has been hard, but wearing the hat of teacher has proven to be both my biggest challenge and greatest reward! Being a former 3rd grade teacher, it was time to do my best to put my skills to the test. Creating a classroom space for my 3 kids to feel excited to learn in each day was important.
The year started off well home schooling my youngest 2 (age 3 and 5), with my oldest (7 year old) attempting virtual learning from home. It was a disaster. He was distracted, overwhelmed, and I was juggling to help him focus. A month in and I soon realized this wasn’t the right fit.
Sadly, his local school was out of space and couldn’t take him back. After a lot of contemplation, we decided to send him to a forest school, where he spends most of his time outdoors, rain waters and all! Although the decision weighed on me heavily, I realized that each child has unique needs and he was thriving in this environment. School wasn’t the traditional format, but it worked.
Meanwhile, back at home, I chose to teach my soon to be kindergartner to the best of my ability. One of the primary goals was to incorporate a lot of art, crafts, building, creating, and coordinate learning through variety of books! School should be fun and draw upon the interest of each child!
Although there have been hard days with resistance from all of us, teaching from home has been an unexpected gift. My kids are teaching me more than I am them!
Remote learning has been going well. This is our first school experience, which sucks but we have learned so much. Our teacher did a great job with communication via email and apps for parents. They dropped off a big supply basket for all of his activities and offer replenishing whenever we need anything. The teacher even dropped it off at our house which I thought was really nice. During Halloween we attended a parade outside so the kids were able to dress in costumes and see their teachers and there was an outdoor Christmas celebration as well. The teachers give updates and and let us know what areas need more work than others. They did an amazing job given the situation.
Parent Perspective (In-Person Learning)
My daughter has been attending in-person daycare for months now. They have implemented new process and procedures for drop off and pickup. The staff has each parent complete wellness questioners making sure nobody has been exhibiting any signs or symptoms of COVID. I love that I have the option for childcare and if the facility was not open I would certainly struggle to find care during work hours. It is nice to know that we can continue out routine and interact with other children while staff take precautions to promote safe and healthy learning.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was lucky enough that my school was able to reopen in August. The parents and students were given an option of either E-Learning or In Person Learning for the trimesters. My eighth grade class only had three out of the thirty students E-Learning for all three trimesters. My school has done a great job at making our eighth grade year as normal and safe as possible. The Graduating Class of 2021 is fortunate enough to be able to have all of our events and ceremonies as the previous years did. Even though the eighth grade gets to have all of our events, that doesn’t mean this year wasn’t difficult to adjust to. At first, it was tough having to wear a mask all day and social distance from each other, but we all adjusted. It was also difficult to be separated into two separate classes since we had all been a class of thirty for the last two years. We weren't able to participate in any school extracurricular sports this year which was disappointing. This pandemic hasn’t been easy on a lot of children, especially middle schoolers and teens, but hopefully everyone will be able to have a more "normal" experience next school year.
We can say with certainty that we do not envy educators this year, but more than ever we admire them. We appreciate their resilience. We appreciate their ability to adapt quickly and efficiently. We appreciate their kindness and understanding. We appreciate their compassion and passion for their students and education. We appreciate how they have risen to a challenge they should have never had to in the first place.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week from Hiccups and Heels!
xo - Katie and Amanda