As you can imagine, teaching this year is anything but normal, but I am so grateful to be able to interact with my students. For our school, families have the opportunity to choose in-person or virtual instruction. Each classroom is outfitted with a camera that allows at-home learners to join the class in real time. While the marvels of technology have allowed for this synchronous learning, there are additional demands of teachers, such as scanning and loading documents while constantly monitoring in-person students.
We are careful to keep our students safe, which means face masks must be worn when transitioning throughout the classroom and school buildings.
While I am tired as never before, I would not want to be in any other profession. The routine and social interaction that school provides to students make a huge difference. I encourage you to be supportive of your school’s decision, be it face-to-face, virtual, or a hybrid model of learning. Each version has pros and cons, and administrations have been tasked with making the best choice when there isn’t one correct answer.
I understand the hesitation of educators to return to the classroom. The decision for me was rooted mainly in my personal faith – that God has a plan, and I will do my best to carry it out. I also think I can be a source of help to my students. Students need adults to maintain a “normal” daily routine, and provide reassurance that things will be OK. Parents can help students and schools succeed during this pandemic.
Keep communication open.
When we transitioned to virtual learning in the spring, I asked my students every few days how they were feeling, and if they were OK. Though they might not show it, some students are scared and need to express it. While students probably don’t want to talk about the virus every day, adults should still give children the opportunity to release their emotions.
Despite receiving one-word answers, parents should avoid trying to fill the silence. Ask simple questions, talk less and listen more. Avoid judgment or becoming overly emotional. Instead, stay calm and reasonable.
At the beginning of the school year, I told my students I would give them grace, and I would need the same from them. The pandemic has put everything into perspective. It is a time to help each other as a community. Parents can help teachers by working with them, and trusting them to do a good job. Teachers can assure parents with regular communication. Also, be respectful of others’ need for safety.
Say thank you.
When things run smoothly, it can be easy to forget how much effort it takes to make that happen. There have been hours of planning, cleaning and strategizing to try to give students the face-to-face school experience. Our dining hall staff deserves medals for the amount of work that goes into daily meal preparation with enhanced health and safety protocols. I invite parents to reflect before reaching out to teachers with minor gripes. Instead, go out of your way to say “Thank you!” It is such an easy thing to do, and can lift someone’s spirit.
I am a strong believer in prayer. I pray every day, and have spent more time praying for my students, colleagues and family. It gives me peace.
Don’t let fear consume you.
This is an uncertain school year and 2020 has thrown a lot at us. We will survive this, and I hope we come through stronger and with a better perspective on what matters most.
– Jennifer Bonn, a French teacher at Mount Paran Christian School, and is working on a book about lessons she learned in the classroom.