Teachers are notoriously organized. We plan. We color code. We write things down in multiple places. We have to be, it's part of the job description. But we are also flexible and able to "go with the flow". If there is one thing I have learned in 33 years of teaching, it is that there is never a dull moment. The other thing is to be prepared for everything to go wrong. The key is to never let the students know that something was not part of the plan or that your back up to the back up plan isn't working either. In other words, never let them see you sweat. Of course, the day that everything is falling about and all the high school students in your class decided to stay up all night videogaming is going to be the day that an administrator drops in for a visit. It never fails.
However, nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for the past two years of my teaching career. The year of 2019-2020 started normal enough. Things were moving in the normal direction. We had already experienced Back to School and Homecoming. We were in the final stretches of the semester heading towards Thanksgiving and Winter Break. Heck, we had even made it through the sugar rush of Halloween.
"Lock down! Lock down! This is not a drill!" approximately 7:30 am on November 14, 2019. Some students, mostly upperclassmen, were in early period classes. Some students, mostly ninth and tenth graders, were hanging out on a beautiful fall day in the quad with their friends before class. Some teachers were on campus. Some were on their way. Our lives were forever shattered as our high school became a statistic. That morning three students died, two were killed by the gunman who took his own life; three more were shot and wounded. Numerous others were witnesses to the shooting. This was not in the lesson plan. It was, however, in our safety plan. According to our district and others, the students and staff reacted in "textbook fashion".
After the shooting, we began to deal with the PTSD, the survivors' guilt and a myriad of other issues. We took it easy, handling the students and each other with care and compassion. The community was loving and supportive. None of how to deal with the aftermath of such a tragedy was in our professional development or teacher training. My daughter, a teacher candidate in college, came to school our first real day back to classes after Thanksgiving Break and wrote a paper for college. Her professor was intrigued to follow the storyline of our recovery.
After Winter Break, we were heading for some type of normalcy. I, myself, found that PTSD had curled it's claws into my psyche just a little too deep from my experiences the morning of the shooting. On February 29th, I was out hiking for a mental health day, feeling that I could go back to school after being out for awhile on worker's comp. About 20 minutes from the end of my hike, I came around a corner, slid on the gravel on the trail and fell. I heard my ankle pop. I crawled back up to the trail from the hill and attempted to stand up. That was not going to happen. So, after a rescue and trip to the hospital, I had surgery on the broken leg and dislocated ankle. I was now out of commission for eight weeks. No weight bearing at all, which does not work for educators!
Two weeks later and we were in pandemic lockdown. School was closed and distance learning was the delivery method. Again, this was never a part of the lesson plan! Adjust, adapt and be flexible. We learned all about new methods of delivery of instruction, We became connected to our laptops, computer cameras and light rings. We learned about Zoom vs. Google Meets, every aspect of Google Classroom and every digital tool/learning platform, etc. that was available. And we did it mostly on our own as a survival mechanism. Nothing we had ever done or learned prepared us for the incredible learning curve we had, our students had and the community at large had. Still, we received support (mostly) from the parents and community. And we made it, with compassion and grace, to summer "break".
I do not know a teacher that actually had a break in the summer of 2020. I have never had a summer filled with more apprehension and angst. It was so stressful. On top of dealing personally wit the pandemic, we did not know what the beginning of school was going to look like. No one could answer that for us, because no one knew. It was agonizing. It definitely was not part of any lesson plan. Better question yet was, what would lesson plans look like for the opening of school?
Due to the amount of community spread where I live, we started the year with all distance learning and teaching. There were no in person classes at any level of education. Which meant that my spouse (who also teaches where I teach) and I were both teaching downstairs while both of our college age children were upstairs in their classes. Talk about wifi overload, again, not a part of any lesson plan I had ever put together; nor did I ever have to plan for the wifi of my students. What a learning curve for all of us!
Finally, we were in a groove. And we made it through the first semester. It was not perfect. But, again, with compassion and grace, we made it through. The area where we live went through a terrible wave of the pandemic in December and January. So we began the second semester of the year still doing distance learning and teaching. Although , our district decided that changing the schedule again was a good idea. Apparently, they didn't ask if that was part of the teachers' lesson plans.
As the wave receded and vaccines became available, we have now gone to a hybrid schedule. We tried that for a week, then had Spring Break and now we are back at hybrid. This system, where a number of students are in my classroom while the rest are on Zoom, is difficult to maintain. No one has ever been trained in this method. It has never been a part of any teacher training program, and it, definitely, has never been a part of any lesson plan.
As we proceed into the last two weeks of April, our district talks again about changing the schedule, and bringing students back five days a week, Right now students attend two days a week. Quite frankly, I cannot fit that many students into my classroom, even at three feet distance. At our school, we have been on campus with students for a total of seven days, and in those seven days we have already had four confirmed cases of Covid.
Why share this novel of a journey with you? Because, although it has little to do with tutoring specifically, it has everything to do with my personal journey as an educator. And I think that it will help you to know that I understand what we have been going through in educational environments this year. I relate to your student's experience or your own experience. I even taught my adult class via online this year.
This had definitely been an experience, both negative and positive. It never crossed my mind that my career would be impacted in this manner I always thought I could basically follow the lesson plan and move forward. Not anymore,