Change In A Time of COVID: Teacher Perspective
What Is Happening?
“Hybrid. You will have three sections, A Cohort, B Cohort, C Cohort.” This is where the conversation started. I remember my chest getting a bit tight. “A yearly class will now be 18 weeks. A semester class, 9 weeks.” Ummmm. What? I have a bit of content that students ABSOLUTELY NEED! “Monday, Tuesdays, remote Wednesdays. Thursday, Fridays.” What about students that need to be here? What about mental well being? Isolation? The general themes of the next weeks were to be a mix of trying to accept a new normal and supporting our students to the best of our ability when surrounded by abnormal circumstances.
We spent the next days and weeks taping one way hallway directions, examining existing curriculum, and rearranging rooms to keep students and staff six feet apart. I picked up a new job as a lunch delivery lady to students who would now be eating in classrooms instead of our crowded basement cafeteria. Staff meetings that were now outdoors addressed mask protocols, sanitation SOPs, and Zoom rules. They were followed by department Zoom meetings and small groups of teachers working on yet more curriculum modifications. “Our students deserve more than this!” Tensions ran high and people were legitimately very nervous at the thought of being in rooms with students again. Teacher feelings reflected safety concerns of students and the reality of a larger possibility of students and teachers contracting COVID. It also had been a long time since last March. “Did I forget how to teach? I feel like I have.”
Change Is Hard
Grading and attendance were topics that created a lot of heated debate among staff. The look on the administrators’ faces was one of frustration as their carefully thought out plans became the subject of loud complaints. “What??” became the most repeated word. “I can’t freaking hear anything over that fan.”
Everything changed. But like most things, wonderful things started to appear out of chaos and confusion. Younger teachers helped older ones navigating technology they had not previously used. The English Department made the administrators dinner. People figured out the camera systems and helped others in the building. Fruitful conversations were taking place in every area of study about what was truly vital knowledge and how to best teach it.
We are seven weeks into our year. Things have smoothed out and as it turns out, we still all know how to teach. Confidence is returning even though many teachers have voiced that it feels like they are first year teachers again. New schedules seem more normal and opportunities abundant to link students with the real world. As for my classes, a whole new world has opened.
A New Plan
For the first time in my 21 year career as a social studies educator, I designed an interdisciplinary curriculum around one of the largest geopolitical issues in the contemporary world, The Arctic. The posts that will follow over the next year will focus on interdisciplinary content related to the Greenland Subglacial Tremor Project, climate change, glaciology, hydrology, history, foreign policy, and visual arts. Posts will discuss outreach plans and professional organizations that we are connecting with and will show how we are disseminating successful classroom and curriculum strategies and recommendations based on trial and error to educators and community members across Maine and the nation. We are going to show you what we are doing and how we are doing it.
In 1885, Thomas Edison wrote in his diary that “restlessness is discontent - and discontent is the first necessity of progress.” Indeed sir.