Who would have imagined that in 2020 most if not all schools would go virtual for a period of time? When entering into the profession of teaching, no one envisioned this as our future. We never imagined staring at a screen and trying to make real connections with students that we often can’t tell are still online. We’re looking at blank squares or small icons staring back at us as if we’re alone.
However, we’re not. There are millions of educators feeling the same way. This is a crucial time in education. A time when teachers are teaching better than ever and giving all they have to students. Although students may not be face-to-face in many areas, education has become more engaging than ever. This IS how education should look and be for all students– not the education of old where students just copy notes or do worksheets day after day.
The struggle is that teachers everywhere are exhausted. They’re already burned out, and we haven’t been in school an entire semester. PD after PD has been forced upon them. Negativity surrounds us. Expectations have been raised. Teachers need someone to tell them, “It’s going to be ok. You’ve been training for this your entire career. It’s now time for the marathon. Slow and steady will win the race.” Once teachers know that, they need a plan to help them be successful for the year. They need a long-term plan to get them to the end despite what their school year will look like, whether that’s virtual, hybrid, or both.
Here are a few suggestions to help with a long-term plan:
- Know that it’s OK to make mistakes.
- Try something for a week and then reassess. Find out what works and what doesn’t. If you have older students, try talking to them about what worked best.
- Don’t stop learning.
- This may mean learning from your mistakes or learning from your students.
- Subscribe to a blog. Read a quick article every so often. You don’t have to read a whole book to learn something new.
- Talk to your colleagues about what they are doing and what is working.
- Take ONE new thing you learned from a PD and implement it.
- Become a pro at one thing at a time. Do not try to implement everything you learn all at once. To be good at anything, you must do it repeatedly. Many say it takes 10,000 hours.
- If possible, share the workload with co-workers.
- If your district allows it, team-teach as much as possible or at least plan and stay on pace together.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel or spend money.
- There are so many resources available at our disposal.
- On the other hand, don’t spend countless hours scouring the internet. Most smartphones and computers have cameras. Make a quick video on your own. Students don’t care if it’s edited perfectly with music as long as you, their teacher, are in it. Make a math lesson in the kitchen about fractions or show a science experiment at home– anything to grab their attention.
- Take care of yourself!
- Don’t do school work every single weekend.
- Do something for yourself — leave papers ungraded for a day and take a walk or read a book. Your mental health and well-being are just as important!!
At the end of the day, you have all the skills, tips and tricks, and know-how. It’s just embracing the resilience, fortitude, determination, and desire deep inside us that brought us to the profession in the first place. We were born for this moment. You may not have realized it, but you were. Dig deep, pace yourself, and make each day count for you and your students. The year of 2020 doesn’t have to be awful; you can make it great.
Stephanie Wright, is an ITRT at New Kent Middle School. This is her twenty-third year in education. She was a classroom teacher for ten years and then became an elementary ITRT for eight years. This is her fifth year as a middle school ITRT.