In March of 2020, the world as we knew it took a sharp turn. It probably happened before that, but March was when it affected most of America. It was the week before spring break, and I remember the rumors floating around the building. There was talk of extending spring break for two weeks, giving choice boards for learning, and possibly even having to do check-ins through something called Zoom. Looking back, if you told me I’d become a virtual teacher in the fall, I don’t know if I would have believed you.
I remember specifically where I sat when I watched the news that Governor Kelly decided to cancel the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Not only was I uncertain about the state of everyone’s health and future health—but I was also mourning the loss of my sweet students who got robbed of their first grade year.
Mid-March to the end of May was a complete disaster. I had no idea what I was doing and had no idea how to do it. I also consequently took my kids (ages three, three, and five) out of childcare because I was terrified of what was happening. So being home indefinitely while panic teaching remotely with three kids who need constant attention was…hard. So. Hard.
Fast forward through all of the turmoil—of politics and local health decision making—and you get the 2020-2021 school year. Re-opening plans for fall vary across the metro. While some families had options, others were told without a chance to choose, and some with options were limited in their personality ability to pick because of their circumstances.
My district started in hybrid, but the elementary grades are actually back fully in person as of now. I, however, am the virtual teacher for first grade. So, I will continue to teach my sweet class of first graders remotely until at least mid-January and wanted to share what that looks like.
Being a Virtual Teacher
In many districts, parents had the option of fully remote learning if they didn’t want to deal with the uncertainty of hybrid schedules or if they just wanted their kids to stay at home this year. Our district allowed families to pic this option for first semester with the chance to change for the spring. There are a surprising number of parents who chose this in my district. Many chose virtual learning because they wanted consistency for their kids.
Fortunately, the school day looks a lot different than the panic teaching that went on last spring. This year, teachers have learned (and are continuing to learn) ways to engage their students like never before. I think about all I DIDN’T know a short year ago. I had no clue what Zoom was! Now I’m zooming for most of my day with my sweet bunch of first graders.
This option comes with high stakes too, though. Much of what we do relies heavily on technology. From learning apps to our school learning platform, teachers are working tirelessly to troubleshoot questions and concerns when it comes to technology and getting things to work. This is in addition to the amount of time it takes to plan learning content according to state standards and district guidelines.
It certainly hasn’t been seamless. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel more times than I can count. And I know this time has been difficult for parents and caregivers who are navigating all the different types of learning, too.
What I’ve learned in these few short months of adapting to virtual teaching has made me a better teacher. I’ve learned how to engage students through a camera who might otherwise not have interaction. I’ve learned how to promote positivity and excitement for learning by dancing and singing my way through a lesson. I’ve learned that kids are really funny. And sometimes all they want is for someone to listen to them crack a joke…or show off a magic trick. Kids are honest.
I think it’s sometimes easy to forget that this pandemic affects them, too.
But kids are resilient.
And so are teachers.
We may not get paid the big bucks, but our hearts are in this 100%. We want what is best for our kids and families while providing a nurturing environment for children to learn, laugh, play, and grow.
I wish there was a way to hug all the teachers and tell them we’re all in this together. We’re stressed beyond measure, but we put our hope in the hearts of these kids…who will hopefully learn how to cope and be brave and stay positive—no matter what this crazy world may bring.
Will this pandemic ever be over? Will we ever go back to what we used to know as normal? What even is “normal” anymore? Who knows. But what we DO know is that teachers will find a way to make sure kids are still learning. Parents will, too!
So if you know a teacher or a parent trying to navigate this crazy time, thank them. It just might make their whole day.