Masked and Ready for School

Teaching during COVID-19 is making me a better educator

Selfie of me smiling under my mask with fogged up glasses, by the author

“I don’t like that I can’t see my friends’ and teachers’ smiling faces.” — 5th grade student

In my 22 years in the classroom, I couldn’t have imagined having to cover my face and tell my students over and over to separate, social distance, and spread out.

Even though teaching comes with a lot of unknowns and a need for extreme flexibility, I never imagined the headaches, the technology frustrations, the anxiety, and honestly the isolation and loneliness that I feel right now.

Yes, I am teaching on campus. My classroom holds 10 students with desks arranged 6 feet apart. I have three off-campus learners. Planning and teaching in both modes at once is nearly impossible. Even when the technology works great, which it rarely does, I am constantly flustered and losing my train of thought. If you know kids, they automatically try your patience if you are off for a second. It is amazing that I am not losing my temper.

Right now, I am totally exhausted. Like a lot of teachers, Sundays mean lesson planning, writing newsletters, and giving feedback on a pile of student work. I don’t feel like a better educator, but I know teaching during this pandemic is making me stronger in many ways.

I have to be extremely organized. This has always been a teaching goal of mine. This year, I am taking things slow. I am allowing myself grace and flexibility, but I am thriving on routine. Consistency has never been my biggest strength. I am holding myself to a higher standard. The framework for my teaching days is holding together the inevitable chaos. I am ready to switch to distance learning mode as soon as we need to.

I am experimenting more. All of those amazing ideas I’ve learned over the years through my master’s program, workshops, conventions, and teacher trainings are coming alive. I get to rebuild my teaching practices to better suit the kids I have now. I am getting better at using technology to organize, create, and present. I am giving myself time to actualize the kind of classroom I’ve always wanted.

I feel like when the masks and sneeze guards and social-distanced furniture arrangements are traded back for my cozy couch, reading nook, and gathering rugs, I will have so many more teaching tools established.

I am working on self-care. I know I need to rest and exercise and eat right. When the overwhelm comes in, I am not the best at taking care of myself. But I am working on it. Anyone who takes care of other people for a living must take care of themselves first, otherwise, the job doesn’t work.

“Going to school at this time is hard because you can’t hug or hold hands.” — 5th grade student

We need a reminder that school is all about the kids. Their social-emotional well being is more important than any curriculum. The biggest service to them is providing a safe place for them to be with their classmates. Children need some sense of normalcy with opportunities to express themselves in the time of COVID-19. Kids are incredibly resilient.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I am grateful for my students. They are why we must get our world to heal. They are worth listening to. They are worth our patience. They are extremely patient with me, and I am learning from them how to be a better educator.

© 2020 Samantha Lazar

Poetry, fiction, and essays in celebration of being a Mom, Wife, Educator, Writer, & Lover of Life.

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