Reflections of Pandemic Teachers
There are over 3.6 million teachers in the United States – and this past year, they had to change everything they thought they knew about educating their students and quickly adapt to a new world.
When schools began shutting down in-person learning in March of 2020, we all thought it would be a few weeks and we would have to hang tight while we hoped the world would come back to “normal." But that didn’t happen. And as the weeks and months progressed, our children sat in their bedrooms, living rooms, and at kitchen tables trying to stay connected to learning with the help from their stressed and confused teachers. How would teachers alter all their carefully scripted lesson plans to become remote learning? And how would they be able to stay on top of students’ readiness and knowledge base if they couldn’t see through everyday interactions the missteps or struggles that might be happening. Not to mention the worry over children not being able to socialize with their peers. The concerns mounted.
It’s now a year later. An entire year in which we altered our ways of life – and did “what we could."
Across the country schools begin to welcome students back into their classrooms full time again, and the situation again must change. Learning has changed. And teachers themselves have changed.
We asked a few teachers across the country about their reaction to this past year of teaching during a pandemic. In 20 or 30 years – when students are learning about what these times were like, we look into the everyday lives of these dedicated teachers and the support they needed to get through it.
Kristen Espenschied, 4th grade teacher, 21st year of teaching, CA
It was overwhelming and exhausting. It was also hard being on the computer for so many hours a day. Nothing like teaching in a classroom. I joined many teacher groups on Facebook with teachers across the country. Teachers would share so many great things and support each other. As with everyone at the beginning, it was scary and stressful. As a teacher you also worry about your students and their families. It was hard to separate school and home.
My students were really great and adapted better than I expected. They showed up everyday and participated. I would try to have them do group projects in breakout rooms, so they could still work with their peers. I also had a “Fun Friday" where they could just come and hang out. We sometimes played games or just showed each other our pets. We even had a dance party one day with one student being the DJ.
Susan Woodruff, Kindergarten teacher, 21st year of teaching, NJ
This year was an emotional roller coaster. In the beginning, I felt like I was working 24 hours a day to try and keep up! I was helping my own kiddos at home and meeting with my class daily. I turned my basement into my own mini classroom. My school stuff took over the house. You had to become tech savvy instantly.
We began simple, adding fun engaging activities and lessons that helped everyone become comfortable with being on a screen. That is not an easy task for many. I remember laughing at myself often trying to learn how to record myself teaching! I always felt like I developed a great rapport with parents each year, but this experience made me bond & grow with the entire family. Family pets became part of our lessons, grandparents were helping out. I felt like I had SO many people supporting me.
Mrs. Woodruff also worried about the effects of their mental health. “Kindergarten teaches social interaction and many wonderful experiences were not allowed due to the restrictions put in place. That has been a huge gap that I see. Play time has been lost, no toys or board games are all allowed in the room. Playgrounds are closed. Making close friends used to be an easy task, but not this year. They have lacked the interaction."
Tracy Nasuti, Middle School English, 21st year of teaching, NJ
Last spring was really tough. I cried a lot. This year I’ve been in school the whole year with most of my students hybrid and some fully remote. It’s been hard and when I feel like I’ve got something figured out something changes, a new schedule, new guidelines to be followed, a new request from administration. I realized I have to let some things go. I can only do so much and things aren’t going to be perfect. That’s a big hurdle to get over for a lot of teachers. This year there was a lot of new tech, different sites to use and new platforms you could use to get kids interacting with instruction. It was important to try new things and not get upset if it didn’t work.
Making connections with students individually is the most important thing. I knew this before but this past year has validated that over and over.
I think if people took a moment to acknowledge what teachers have done for kids this year it would mean a lot. I’ve had a couple of parents send me sincere emails thanking me for something I did and that meant a lot, more than they probably realized. We continue to learn new things to develop our art of teaching. I think if people remembered that and recognized the professional work teachers do that would make a big difference. Mrs. Nasuti
One lesson learned… be proud of what you accomplished each day. This is all new for all of us. Teachers just need to feel appreciated, it’s that simple! I feel like many realize how hard we are working. Our job description changed over night and we battled through. There will be gaps in learning but teachers will do what they do best.. teach to the individual needs of our students. Mrs. Woodruff
Having support from so many parents and the community means a lot. At the beginning we were superheroes, then as it went on it seemed that we were being blamed for a lot. It’s definitely been hard and you just need to focus on the positive and not let the negative get to you. Mrs. Espenschied
As the school year comes into its final semester, we thank all the 3.6 million teachers for their dedication to making a difference in the lives of our children. Help your school celebrate teachers by setting up a Give InKind page to show your appreciation and support, and send a Give InKind curated teacher appreciation gift box today.
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