It’s been a while since I posted. Writing has always been a part of me, but recently it has been difficult – recently, life has just been difficult.
I’m a teacher and have been for about four years now. I’ve taught many levels, but I’ve mostly stuck to high school and, last year, I made the switch to solely high school. So far, even though it was the right choice for me, it’s been a roller coaster. During my first official high school year, school shut down and all the IB exams were canceled. This year, our school is still suffering from the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the work load in the slightest; in fact, as I tell my students, the expectations have doubled while the restrictions have tripled. There’s been a lot of changes but, despite everything, we are doing as good as we possibly can. I am very proud of that.
A typical day starts relatively the same. I’ve had a slight obsession with Starbucks this year (that autumn Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew was to die for) that got a little out of hand, but I’m getting back into making good coffee at home. I’ve used the extra time at home to build up my coffee bar to include different syrups, which makes mornings even more exciting.
I get my temperature checked at the gate. Because of new procedures, teachers don’t have a room to call their own this year. Students are separated by classes and teachers travel from room to room. I miss having a place (and an actual desk to keep myself somewhat organized), but there is less movement in the halls. Instead, I camp out in an unused classroom with one other teacher, each of us on opposite sides of the room. Truthfully, I was very disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t have a classroom this year, as I’ve lost the creativity that I’ve always poured into decorating my room.
Rooms like the cafeteria and library have been converted into makeshift social-distancing classrooms that are better for our larger classes. Once class starts, there really isn’t time to take a personal break until the end of the day, but that really isn’t much different than any other year.
Our classes are completely hybrid, which means that I have students constantly in front of me and virtually. At first, the virtual student list was strict but, with constant outside COVID cases popping up in families and staff, the list is constantly fluctuating. In the middle of this, I am still prepping for five different classes, as I teach three Higher-Level literature courses, a Theory of Knowledge course (at two different levels), and a foreign language. Everything is constantly changing or being pushed around, often times right in the middle of class.
I spend most of the day endlessly guiding both my in-person and virtual students at the same time through assignments over novels they definitely didn’t read, fighting constantly collapsing WIFI and connection issues, hopelessly reaching out to blank screens and muted microphones, desperately trying to keep everyone on track to make our assessments by the end of the year, and constantly reminding students to wear their masks correctly. We also have our lunch with the students in the same room in order to keep them separated by class and supervised, which is lonely and tiring. Technology is supposed to make everything easier, but it’s just making it easier to pile on the work. There’s less interaction and communication among teachers as we are physically separated and, in turn, curl up in our own little world for days on end. Student cheating is so common that I hope my students are at least learning something. All of my interactive projects and kinesthetic, collaborative assignments have ultimately been scrapped or heavily adapted.
However, I’m trying my best to introduce fun, modern readings and interactive online activities. I spent a lot of time at the start of this year passionately revamping the reading lists and curriculum for grades 6 – 10. Currently, my 10th grade has read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, learned about the Apartheid through Trevor Noah’s standup and his short stories in Born a Crime, and are now starting an absolutely beautiful graphic adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
We do lots of independent writing and peer editing. I’ve written and developed a lot of my own assignments in Google Classroom. Despite everything, I still see an improvement in many of my students and, if anything, now we’ve both gotten to see each other at our most vulnerable times. We’re understanding of each other and our mistakes. We’re making it work.
I come home usually with a headache, always dehydrated, and sanitize everything I own upon entering the house before heading straight to the shower; then, I collapse on the couch until the sun sets and I get a spurt of energy to complete all of the chores that never go away. Every day. I don’t feel like I do, or can do, anything outside of work, and that’s a rather sad feeling.
By the end of the year, I hope to come back to this post and be able to see how far I’ve come. The lull after the holiday break is always the hardest and February has hit with full force. Right now, I can only do the best I can to keep myself and the people around me safe. I’ve personally grown to like the masks, especially if I didn’t have to babysit a bunch of 15 to 18-year-olds who still don’t understand that you have to cover both your mouth and nose. (I swear that the elementary school kids wear them better than any of the teenagers!) There are still a few clubs and after-school functions, but student morale is low. Students hardly mix grade levels and stay in the same, sometimes windowless, room for hours on end. And, if that wasn’t enough, the world often feels like it’s being torn apart at times.
As all of student work is online, it’s easy for teachers to pile on the homework. I’ve worked on keeping communication open with my students and have focused on being more understanding and patient; it’s a very different school year for all of us. No matter what my students accomplish this year, I want them to know that it was enough.
I know that everyone’s pandemic story will not be the same but, if you are feeling a bit lonely, I’ve reconciled with knowing that it’s okay to feel that way sometimes. It won’t last forever. I have great friends and family who, even if I can’t see in person all the time, are always reachable via phone or video chat. I know there are a lot (if not all!) teachers out there who are in a similar situation.
In the next few weeks, I hope to get back to doing what I love at home: reading for me (and not only for work), finding the passion to write both for my blog and creatively again, sketching, picking up fun hobbies like cooking and cocktail making, exploring other WordPress blogs and interacting with other amazing people and writers. I’ve let it get away from me, but I’m excited to get it back.