grace,  Growth,  Life

Teaching Pandemic Style: What Teachers Want You to Know

Maybe you’ve noticed, but there are big emotions floating around out there. Decisions being made by school districts across the nation are triggering some feelings. After what seems like the longest Summer Vacation known to man, we are finally staring face to face with a brand new school year. However….teachers are overwhelmed. Just like the rest of us.

For some parents, this feels like a sliver of light after walking through a dark tunnel for the past four months. We are ready to be released from the chains of this pandemic life, and more than happy to share our children with their precious teachers.

We have endured 19 weeks at home together. How long, O Lord, must we continue to referee 27 arguments a day while practicing deep cleansing breaths?

While we are overwhelmed and eager to return to some form of normalcy, let’s remember that teachers are overwhelmed, too.

They are under an immense amount of pressure trying to determine how to best serve our kids.

Each news update finds us on the edge of our seats, desperate to cling to any answers we can get our hands on. Yet still, the uncertainty is thick and we are smothering under the weight of it.

As a former teacher, the collective anxiety of today’s educators sits heavy with me. Just like the rest of us, teachers have a variety of opinions about how things should move forward.

Some feel safer with the idea of online learning. Others are desperate to be back in the classroom standing in front of real live kids. And still others prefer something in the middle, which many districts are calling a “hybrid” model.

But let’s be clear: There is no best option.

If there were, we would all be doing it. We wouldn’t be jumping on social media arguing over whose way is better, trying to change other people’s minds. Instead, we would rest easy, feeling all manner of peace and tranquility over the future.

I don’t know about you, but peace and tranquility have been about as hard to find as toilet paper in March 2020. Many of us are a little bit on edge, to say the least.

Teachers are gearing up for a new school year full of unknowns, fears, regulations, and expectations.

This is, by the way, on top of the unknowns, fears, regulations, and expectations that are heaped on them during any regular school year.

I queried several teachers I know in real life and asked them to share their thoughts about this new normal. I also asked some that I don’t know personally, and they humored me by answering my questions via Instagram stories. My very fancy researching techniques revealed that teachers’ hearts are aligned across the board.

They want the best for kids. Period.

They aren’t in in for the fame and recognition and they certainly aren’t in it for the money. They’re in it for our kids. But right now, they’re treading water with no life boat in sight.

And there are a few things teachers would like us to know.

Teachers are worrying about our kids. We are all stumbling along together, collectively worried about students’ social-emotional development. Teachers are overwhelmed and fearful of potential regression due to lack of regular instruction. What long-term effects are we facing, and will it impact students’ overall attitude about school? These are real and genuine concerns teachers are wrestling with, just like parents.

Many teachers are parents, too. They worry endlessly about not only our kids, but their own as well. They want to be available as a parent, as well as a teacher. The painful truth is that it’s darn near impossible to be fully present in both roles at the same time. 

Teachers are very, very human. They have families, financial worries, and health concerns just like the rest of us. They go through the Chick-fil-A drive thru for dinner and forget their laundry in the washing machine overnight.

Grace, in abundance, is our greatest gift to them. Now, more than ever.

Their hearts are hurting. They want to be there for kids, but they also fear for everyone’s safety. Local government and district leaders are making all the decisions. Teachers don’t have a say, and many haven’t been asked what their opinion is.

Truthfully, they are likely feeling just as frustrated as we are. And their hearts are breaking at the thought of school looking alarmingly different than ever before.

They’re going to miss the line of parents at the door taking the first-day-of-school pictures.

They’ll miss the high fives and hugs and morning meetings around the rug.

They’ll miss the casual conversations at recess about family pets or gymnastics class or a wiggly tooth.

They’ll miss being able to connect with a kid after noticing something is off because that face they know so well is distinctly pained one particular morning.

They’ll miss the relationships formed from sharing inside jokes, a common routine, and the bond of community.

Teachers really want your child back in school. As one former colleague shared with me, “There is no substitute for in-person learning.” For the most part, parents and teachers alike are desperate for kids to return to school.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what that will look like, or when it will happen.

In this time of waiting, I find myself clinging to my faith. God has revealed time and again that He is faithful, and this situation is no different.

A friend of mine writes beautiful pieces about remembrance. It always leads me to think back to the times in my life when I was just certain God couldn’t work the thing out. At least not without my help. But in fact, He always works it out. Every time.

Everything’s going to be ok.

Teachers are becoming extremely creative with delivering content in this new normal.

No teacher dreamed, as they were sitting in their education classes in college, that one day they might have to rig some sort of projector system on their kitchen table using a stack of books and a jar of peanut butter to hold an Ipad in place.

Photo credit @Teaching With Pixie Dust

They certainly never imagined teaching in some weird reality where they find themselves wearing a face shield like they’re dressed up as a welder for Halloween.

Teachers are overwhelmed, just like the rest of us. But they are finding creative ways to adapt and adjust. Big time.

This doesn’t feel easy.

This doesn’t feel fair.

This doesn’t feel right.

But we can model for our kids exactly what it looks like to build character and strength and resilience in the face of a challenge. What an incredible opportunity we have to help them develop one of life’s most valuable lessons!

Your child’s teacher is there to help them learn this lesson, too. They’re going to show up, giving all they have. It might be in person, or it might be on a computer screen. Either way, they have nothing but your child’s best interest in mind. Our support and partnership with them is critical.

When they are working as hard as they can to stay afloat this year, let’s be the ones to hand them a life vest.

And let’s always remember to offer grace in abundance.

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