Don’t let funny memes and tweets about teachers being on vacation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis fool you! Teachers are not lounging at home with a martini-in-hand thinking, hahahaha parents, how do you like it? Rather, they are home, working around-the-clock to keep up with the demands of distance learning.
Teachers are challenging themselves to create innovative lesson plans to be used on new platforms, all the while trying to stay connected to the students they truly care about. Teaching is a work of the heart and now more than ever, teachers are being called on to go above and beyond.
Here are some of the challenges our teachers are facing right now, how they are dealing with them, and parents can offer support:
They Miss Their Students
Teachers are taking on the role of distance-educator with a hole in their hearts where their students’ smiles and high-fives once lived.
I cried when this sweet message from Ms. Sanon, a fourth grade teacher in Norwalk, CT appeared in my Facebook feed:
To my students,
I miss our classroom family. I miss your jokes. I miss your out-of-the-box thinking. I miss your willingness to try. I miss your thoughtful questions. I miss your curious minds. I miss our morning meetings. I miss you!!! Keep working hard on your assignments. I am proud of all of you. Only complete day 3 works. Don’t overdo it. Take brain breaks. Have a dance party! Exercise and have a wonderful day!!!! I am still once click away if you need anything.
Our kids need love, consistency, reassurance and a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos and uncertainty. Sanon offered these things to her student through a computer screen and the authenticity of her words cannot be denied; she loves and misses her students.
Tip for parents: Try to stay connected with your child’s teacher and ask them how they are doing through all of this. Reach out with a surprise, a virtual thank you, an email, or photo from your child. Let them know that they, too, are loved, missed and appreciated.
They are Grappling with Guilt
I was surprised to hear some teachers express guilt, despite their obvious dedication. Mrs. Dextraze, a third grade teacher in Wyckoff, NJ is not only a teacher, but a mom with kids of her own. While juggling work and motherhood from home, Dextraze is doing an amazing job reaching out to her students and challenging herself as a teacher, yet her job weighs heavy on her heart.
“I keep seeing posts of what [other] teachers have been able to accomplish and hope I’m doing enough for my families and students… I’m having one small technology glitch where my platform’s video app isn’t working and I’m feeling so guilty that we haven’t group chatted this week!”
Mrs. Dextraze loves and desperately misses her students, but lucky for her, they keep her laughing in her home office. “I really want to check on the kids and see how they are and just see their cute faces,” she explained to me. “We are all used to kids asking a million questions a day. Now instead of the hands shooting up in the classroom, they are shooting me emails left and right. It’s hysterical.”
Tip: Go out of your way to tell your child’s teacher they are doing a good job and that what they are doing is more than enough. Send a virtual bouquet of flowers or balloons!
They Miss the Routine, Too
On Friday, March 13, 2020, Mr. Cosham-Tittle said goodbye to his first graders in South Windsor, CT for an indefinite amount of time. At first, it felt like a normal vacation goodbye, but reality set in three days later.
“I [didn’t] know how long it was going to be before I [saw] them again,” he said. “Each day, each hour, each minute, I think about my students — the ones who thrive on routine and who look forward to school and that is what makes me just a little sad. Each morning, I continue on like it’s a regular day: I get my workout in, shower, and get ready for the day. But I don’t drive to school and greet 22 smiling faces at my classroom door each day. I don’t get to see the moments when they understand the new learning. I don’t get the opportunity to watch them interact with each other and act silly. I would give anything to be able to hear the chatter and laughter of those 22 children right now.”
Tip for parents: Bring your child’s learning to life for their teacher. Capture their aha moments on camera and send an email to them. Keep the routines alive and send a video of your child doing the Pledge of Allegiance first thing in the morning or perhaps an art project during the normally scheduled art class time. Let your child’s teacher know the routine and the learning have not been cancelled!
Today’s teachers are facing challenges they could have never prepared for, but when you’re driven by a passion and love for your students, you simply rise to the occasion. “As teachers, we are called to be strong in some of the hardest times and as sad and stressed and scared as I am, I will never let that show,” shared Cosham-Tittle. “We must be strong for our students because we are their mentors. We are the ones who teach them through example. So each video, each lesson, each activity I send them through distance learning will be full of excitement, rigor, and creativity. That’s my job.”
As parents, it is our job to express our love and gratitude for the heroes who care for our children, even through screens and apps and shelter-in-place orders. Chances are you will be bored sometime in the near future, why not reach out and thank a teacher?