By Guest Blogger Kelly Nichols, teacher coach (and former teacher)
None of us were aware that Friday, March 13, was the last time we would see our students; our kids, our family. But on Saturday the 14, Governor Cooper announced that schools in North Carolina would close beginning Monday, March 16.
Wait…what? Monday? And just like Rapunzel in her tower, we were quarantined from “Corona” (the virus).
Like with any abrupt change, Monday morning came with a wide array of emotional responses; fear, anger, confusion, sadness, dread. You name it, we had it. In the midst of the crisis, teachers felt deeply. “How am I going to do this?” “Will my students learn?” “I miss my kids!” “I’m worried about ‘Johnny’. He doesn’t have anyone at home to help him!” “ ‘Sally’ misses a lot of school. How can she keep up?” Monday brought meetings. Meetings brought even more questions than answers. Monday saw tears, lots of tears; questions without answers, and low points of desperation. I heard and saw plenty of “We are not okay.” from colleagues. A friend mentioned she entered her classroom to see incomplete student projects and “just bawled”. We were concerned about our children whom we have come to love.
Tuesday began in a flurry. Emotions still running high but with consciousness that time is limited. Teachers began to do what we do best. MacGuyver has nothing on us. Teachers accepted the impossible and bit by bit are making it possible. No lawmaker is deciding what we should do. We are just doing it. And the best thing is we are doing it together. Teachers who grasp the technology are helping others who struggle. Departments at the Central Office created “At Home Learning” videos and pages to help teachers find resources. Teachers are becoming a team. All for the kids. This is worth it- for our babies.
As computers and hot spots began to roll out to those who needed, plans adjusted (and continue to) moment to moment. We are walking head first into the unknown, feeling unequipped, but determined. This is getting real. We won’t see our kids yet, they still deserve our best. Can we give it to them? How will we know? Because news is constantly changing, there are more questions than answers. There seems to be conflicting information. Issues like the legality of video conferencing are confusing and questioned. Not to mention the platform we rely on, PowerSchool, is completely overloaded and running slow. Even worse, some items have disappeared.
When students (and parents) first logged on to begin our new school, more issues became apparent. UGH! PowerSchool! How much work do you give? How do we know that it is the child doing the work and not the parent? How are we sure the work is meaningful and not just busy work? Again, we adjust our expectations. We adjust our assignments. We adjust our instructions. Parents are frustrated. I saw one parent post on social media that her child was afraid to eat lunch because she might not get her work done. Another told me her son spent three hours on math. Clearly, more adjustments are necessary still.
We are walking into uncharted territory. We are overwhelmed, confused, yet tenacious. In the last few years, teaching itself has been rough. We have been dictated to (by non-educators) what our students “must” do, we have seen our pay decrease, we have been pitted against each other for test scores, and often required to spend more time testing than we can spend teaching. Even so, what strikes me about this critical situation has been the resolve of teachers. No legislation tells us how to handle this. We are doing what we do best: punting. When things don’t go the way we think they will, we will step back and try another method. Teachers think on our feet. The things that have pulled us apart don’t matter, we come together for the students. While I am certain there will be more changes, I am confident in teachers’ abilities to adjust and innovate. We entered this profession because we care about the education of children. We know they will one day be the adults who continue to make progress in the world.
Although I am unsure if Rapunzel learned anything during her quarantine, I am confident our children will.
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