Teaching and learning are social endeavours. You can’t teach without others. And, it is also very difficult to learn without others. For many, myself included, changes brought be COVID 19 have completely upended the way that teaching and learning function. But I think it is important to realize the ways beyond the obvious that both have been altered. I have been teaching for over 18 years. And, for each of those years the experience was always similar and familiar. The content that I taught changed and the methods and strategies that I employed changed greatly but rarely if ever was the simple structure of me being with my students in a room for 180 days ever altered. That is, until March of 2020 when almost everything with school and life in general was upended. My own school attempted to get back to “normal” in the Fall of 2020 but, as we know by now, nothing has the ability to be normal in 2020 and we are currently stuck in some awful place between what school was and what school could become. And I may write later about why this is and how it could be changed and improved, but for today, I want to focus on how this upheaval to education has impacted me personally and potentially millions of teachers across the country.
A few weeks ago, I believe out of sheer necessity, the school district where I worked transitioned to a fully remote education model. For the first time ever I have come into my classroom each day and I see nobody. I see no other students. I see no other teachers unless I deliver myself to their classrooms which I am most often afraid to do because the transmission rate of COVID 19 is currently at alarming levels in my area. I see no administrators. I come to school each day and I sit in a box. I have tried very hard to deliver the content of my courses, which I have altered almost completely due to the necessities of transitioning to a hands-on-content to a virtual environment. I have made videos of myself. I have hosted live Microsoft Teams meetings (which is like zoom but school-district approved or something) that some students have found their way into. I have tried to give very structured and graded assignments. I have tried to give very free and optional assignments. I have emailed students and parents. I have called students and parents. And still, despite all of these things, I have failed in my attempt to connect with my students.
So here I sit in my brick box that was built to house a teacher like me and students who are currently at home. And I’m alone. People who don’t teach probably don’t understand how I feel right now. And, maybe even some people who do teach don’t understand how I feel right now. But all of those students who I have tried very hard to help for 18 years are out there somewhere right now and I can’t reach them. Maybe I can’t even reach myself because I am trying very hard to make this new school work for my students and for me. But the truth is that it is not working. It is definitely not working for me because it isn’t working for them. There are solutions to these problems because there are solutions to every problem, but those solutions won’t change how I feel today. Today I am disconnected from my students, my colleagues, my administrators, and maybe part of society.
So I will try to do better in connecting with that world that used to exist for me and one that will hopefully come again. I think the best thing to do right now for me, and probably for a lot of teachers, is I am going to focus on myself and trying to find ways that I can stay healthy and happy as I also search for ways to help my students. And maybe our students need to do that to. As I stated at the beginning of this, learning is a social process. But learning is also very personal. Students must find it within themselves to take responsibility for their own learning and their own lives and navigate through this difficult time . The major difference here is that for the first time for them, they do not have teachers in front of them daily helping them to do that. I will continue to search for solutions and work on my own journey to becoming a quality post-Covid 19 teacher, but today, and think I’m a far way away from what that is.