In my years of teaching, I never thought I would start a school year in this way - teaching remote classes, attending meeting by video only, planning with colleagues without being in the same room as them. I'm sure that most teachers feel as bewildered as I do right now - as well as anxious, terrified, stressed, and totally exhausted even before classes have actually begun.
Today, the eve of the start of classes in my district, I am feeling all of the above, as well as feeling totally unprepared. We were so lucky in my district to have 2 weeks to prepare before classes. Some of that time was taken up by taking an teaching online "boot camp". We also had many meetings the first week. The second week, we finally had more time to prepare our own classes. I revised the course maps of some classes, set up a Google site and my Google Classrooms. Finished with all of that, I tried to sit down and actually plan lessons for at least the first two weeks of class. Every time I tried to work on this, I felt totally stuck. I'm usually able to crank out lessons easily (I would hope, with so many years of teaching behind me), but not this time.
I realized the issue was not only me, but the fact that there are so many unknowns still, holding me back from being able to prepare. So on the day before I start teaching, here I am blogging instead.
A lot of blogs and articles have been published over the summer describing teachers' anxieties and stress, and worried about COVID-19 and going back to school. Of course, there are many many sad aspects of not seeing our students in person, for those of us who are teaching remotely. Teaching in person gives you a different energy than teaching online. Body language and facial expressions, especially in teaching ELL, are everything. There is no comparison to working with colleagues in person rather than on video. And, of course, what is a middle school without its building, hallways, cafeteria, and screaming, running, twitching middle school students?
There are a few advantages to teaching from home. The obvious one is not having to travel anywhere, though I really can't complain about my normal 8 minute commute. I enjoyed seeing our yearly convocation on YouTube this morning, rather than seeing it in person in a humid, airless auditorium. And, instead of sitting for 2 hours to watch the death-by-PowerPoint mandatory slides every year, this year we were able to view them on our own and sign off that we completed them - this should always be done like this! What a waste of time it usually is. Our secondary schools' classes have been cut in half in quantity and will be taught in blocks so that kids don't have too many transitions. Finally, rethinking how we are addressing racism in our district has led to many teachers attending workshops, forming book groups, and entirely revamping their curriculum to include more voices of color. Challenges made us think carefully about how we have always done things - just because they have been always done this way doesn't mean it's right or good for kids or teachers. Hopefully some of these positive changes will stick after COVID-19 is a distant threat.
As I come to the end of this blog, I wish all teachers everywhere strength and endurance, and most of all, good health, this year. One consolation for me has been that teachers all over the world are facing the same challenges and hardships this year.
I guess I can't avoid it anymore - it really is time to go prepare now!