Coronavirus and Teachers: Impacts on A Profession
In this blog, seven educators share a variety of perspectives on how coronavirus has affected their lives, including concerns for students and their own families, strategies for remote learning and advice for teachers going forward.
Angela Barnett, 3rd grade teacher, Willow Elementary School, Lakewood, California
No one could see something like this coming, and no one could fathom the lack of preparation leading up to this moment. Yet many teachers are expected to provide some sort of instruction to their students while their school is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are reminded on a daily basis to create and build relationships with our students, but last Friday, I was unable to let my students know that I would not see them in two days nor give them information on how to reach me if needed. I can only imagine the feelings and thoughts that arose after learning that they would not be at school on Monday. I have one student in particular who checks in with me each day. He lives with his grandparents and lets me know how his ill grandfather is doing.
"We should be able to process the magnitude of this situation without stressing over lesson plans and the accountability of our students. "
I work at a Title I school where chronic absenteeism is an issue, students live in multi-family homes, and there is a lack of access to devices and wifi. Trying to implement a new online program that both teachers and students will need to learn and navigate in the midst of a crisis does not lend itself to the empathy and well-being of all.
We should be able to process the magnitude of this situation without stressing over lesson plans and the accountability of our students. If my mindset is about keeping myself, along with my family, healthy and safe, then I can only imagine it is the same, if not more, for my students and their families.
Shared March 12th when decisions about schools closing had not been made in many school districts, causing worry among educators
I'm concerned that testing is more important than what is happening around us - keeping our communities safe should be top priority
bc we know Ss will show up regardless of how they feel due to testing expectations #CloseTheSchools #COVID19 #RemoteLearning @KTLAMorningNews https://t.co/XbrrZu3Qq6
— Angela ❤s 🐶🐾🐱 (@MrsBarnett_Tchr) March 12, 2020
As Monday approached, we were told that teachers needed to report to their site for a district training on a new online program. Fortunately, I utilize Google Classroom in my 3rd grade classroom and push out materials, questions and videos for students to access. Plus our ELA, math and science curriculum includes a digital interface that is easily retrievable.
Moving forward I think it would be best to rely on teachers for their professionalism because they know their students and what they need. Even if that also means creating analog work for them to complete. This would not only relieve the stress of learning something new for everyone, but it would also keep teachers from coming into contact with other people who could possibly be infected or are carriers of COVID-19.
Kristin Ziemke, teacher for Big Shoulders in Chicago, Illinois, pre-K through 8th grader
I think most educators are a bit anxious and overwhelmed at this moment. This is all happening very quickly and teachers are having to adapt and prepare in a short amount of time.
I posted the following tweet because there are many companies allowing free extended access for their products and people sharing ideas online–it’s a good thing, but it can feel overwhelming. None of us have to be distance learning experts TODAY. Instead, we need to recognize that we know our students, have three or four really terrific things we can do with learners and grow from there. It’s going to take time, but this is possible and we can do this.
Hey teachers friends--don't feel pressure to use all the "new free tools" you may be seeing online. Stick to 2 or 3 things you know & feel comfortable with and go from there. You have time to learn & grow as time goes on. Start small, keep it simple, you got this. #COVID19
— Kristin Ziemke #ReadTheWorldNow 📚📱🌏❤️ (@KristinZiemke) March 15, 2020
The most important thing we can do right now is reassure our students and help them find some normalcy and routine in this new way of living. A video call, a recorded read aloud, a photo of the class or teacher emailed home or even a phone call, all signal to students that we are here for you even if we’re not physically together. Simply hearing or seeing an important adult in their life can ease fears and provide security. Everything we do is an opportunity to model for students, and this week we can show them how we respond to adversity, adapt and adopt new conditions for learning and maintain a positive mindset.
"None of us have to be distance learning experts TODAY."
Coronavirus and Teachers:Tips for Distance Learning
- Words matter. School is not closed. School is taking place in a different format.
- If you’re still at school, bring your chart paper, markers, read alouds and math manipulatives home with you.
- If you’re a parent, please be patient. Your teacher is trying to figure this out. We’ll get in a routine, but it may take a few days.
- Educators, remember that families are at home trying to adapt, too. It is going to be challenging to organize learning for 2-3 kids at home and work at the same time. Especially consider families that may only have access to one device.
Sari Beth Rosenberg, 11th grade AP U.S. History, High School for Environmental Studies, New York City
As I write this post, I am still wrapping my mind around New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement to close all schools, restaurants and bars. All K-12 New York City public schools will be closed until AT LEAST April 20th. This week, teachers are being asked to report to school for training in a new remote learning technology system.
No longer having class will be a challenging psychological adjustment for all of us. Nothing will ever replace the magic of learning in a real classroom. However, based on these surreal circumstances (a global pandemic!), I am ready to use an online platform to continue the education momentum I’ve been building with my students since September.
"No longer having class will be a challenging psychological adjustment for all of us. Nothing will ever replace the magic of learning in a real classroom."
Foreseeing the possibility that the coronavirus might lead to a school shutdown, I experimented with Instagram Live on Friday and held my first class on Monday using my my teacher Instagram account. The topic was Japanese Internment during the WWII, and I decided to frame the lesson around the topic of civil liberties during a national emergency. Although experimental in nature, I was pleasantly surprised by both the turnout (nearly 45 viewers and that number doubled after I posted the video) and the student engagement (their comments throughout the lesson).
Here’s how I set it up: On Sunday night, I announced to my students that I would go live on Instagram at noon the next day. In order to simulate a classroom experience, I created Google Slides for the lesson and linked to them on a Google Doc, along with other primary and secondary source readings for the lesson. I commented next to the documents that I expected them to read before the lesson. Then, because other students not from my school planned on joining the Instagram Live lesson, I linked to the Google Doc in my Bio on Instagram.
"I was impressed by my students’ ability to brainstorm scenarios where their civil liberties could be challenged, including freedom of speech, freedom to assembly and also hate crimes against Chinese Americans."
After conducting a mini-lesson about Japanese Internment during World War II, the class engaged in a high-level discussion about the erosion of civil liberties in wartime. Then I facilitated a discussion (in the Instagram Live comments section) about the current day coronavirus and ways that the crisis could lead to a violation of individual rights. I was impressed by my students’ ability to brainstorm scenarios where their civil liberties could be challenged, including freedom of speech, freedom to assembly and also hate crimes against Chinese Americans.
Since Instagram Live can be saved on your phone, I will post the video on our Google Classroom so students can watch it later as well. Students who do not have Instagram can view the video on the Google Classroom as well. I am hoping that the use of both these platforms, Google Classroom and Instagram Live, will help continue the rapport and community that I have built with my students.
Andrew Swan, middle school social studies and English Language Arts teacher, Bigelow Middle School, Newton, Mass.
I started “flipping” my teaching several years ago for a variety of reasons. But instead of trying to flip instruction right now, we must focus on flipping communication between teachers, from schools to families and among students. Let’s leverage technology to bridge physical/social distance with Twitter edchats, Zoom/Skype video conferences among peers, Flipgrid and similar tools to share progress.
While I will not make any official assignments for my students until school re-opens (I have all this week away from school. Most nearby districts declared 2 weeks, and I expect Newton will be extended soon), I will post relevant learning options: podcasts like Civics101, appropriate Youtube channels such as CrashCourse, games from iCivics, asynchronous learning modules like Checkology and some screenless activity suggestions. Some students will explore the links, some won’t or can’t, and I must accept that.
— Andrew Swan (Is Feeling a Little Bit Overwhelmed) (@flipping_A_tchr) March 15, 2020
I began “flipping” direct instruction seven years ago to solve several problems, including how to enhance classroom interactions, implement mastery-learning and reach diverse learners. Instead of spending large portions of class time delivering content and assigning most high-order thinking tasks as homework, I shifted the lower-order work out of the classroom by “cloning myself” in short video lessons.
"Let’s leverage technology to bridge physical/social distance with Twitter edchats, Zoom/Skype video conferences among peers, Flipgrid and similar tools to share progress."
This “flips” the purpose of face-to-face class time to allow more simulations and games and other interactive experiences, more differentiation opportunities, more varied assessments and more individual talks with students. Fortunately, I am comfortable with recording myself on video, and I have the equipment and expertise to do so. My district also has a useful Learning Management System (LMS). More than 95 percent of my students have reliable internet access and most are highly-motivated for academic success.
But as of now, my room is empty, grades mean nearly nothing, and struggling students lack essential support systems. That just isn’t flipping fair. We’ll get back to teaching content later. Continued connections will sustain us until then.
Angela Desarro, ESE (Exceptional Student Education), Math, Science, and Hospitality Teacher, Cypress School at Okeechobee Girls Academy in Okeechobee, Florida
Most public and private schools and events have been cancelled in South Florida for an extra week after spring break, all except the juvenile justice facilities. We remain open through all major disturbances, including the coronavirus. We are taking the necessary precautions of washing hands and cleaning down classrooms and bathrooms, but we stay open no matter what comes our way. Our program stays mostly isolated from society, so there is not a large threat like public schools face.
Say a prayer for all of us DJJ teachers in the trenches. No spring break, no summer vacation, and a 250 day school year with the unimaginable, at times. Teaching multiple secondary subjects and despite all of the shutdowns, we will always stay open. Love what we do. #djjedu
— ADeSarro (@AngieD85107688) March 16, 2020
Instruction continues to happen but at a cautious rate. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, my girls are designing their own inventions and researching marine endangered species list from the World Wildlife Federation’s website. They are loving it. We were able to see pictures on specific endangered animals, which helped them with their inventions.
Nicholas Cavaioli, social science teacher, Orange Vista High School, Perris, Calif.
Last week, it was difficult to conduct classes due to poor attendance and students becoming distracted by cancelled school activities and major events outside of the school. So despite administrators asking us to continue with business as usual, keeping kids in school so as not to disrupt their education proved counterproductive.
"The possibility that sick parents will not be able to take paid leave from their jobs is a reality many of our families will likely face."
I work in a socioeconomically disadvantaged community, and I fear for how the area will be affected if measures aren’t taken to prevent the spread of the disease. I am concerned that some of the aspects we are focusing on including what kids will do during the day will pale in comparison to what may happen when hundreds or thousands of uninsured or underinsured families suddenly find themselves facing steep medical bills. The possibility that sick parents will not be able to take paid leave from their jobs is a reality many of our families will likely face.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m hoping that the way the public has stressed the importance of our schools as a public service during this crisis will carry over beyond the duration of the pandemic.
Gonna miss my students and colleagues as we transition to online learning. Knew it was inevitable with all the other districts closing. Gonna continue to do my best to provide a high level of education to my students even with this new change. Love to all my OV and VV Family.
— Nick Cavaioli (@cavaioliOVHS) March 14, 2020
Coronavirus and Teachers:Tips for Distance Learning
- Get parents on board ASAP. Be proactive and not reactive. An email to parents explaining your plans and scheduling for online learning will go a long way.
- Google Classroom is a necessity. Google Suite tools are free and Google provides free training and inexpensive certification for their education tools.
- Remind is an excellent application that teachers can use to communicate with students and parents. Use free screen recording software like Screencast-o-Matic.
- Face-to-face time is still important. Conduct video office hours using free resources, such as Zoom and GoToMeeting.
- As distance learning rolls out, there will be growing pains. Trial and error will happen just like with any lesson.
- Remember that kids inherently want to learn and most of them value their education. Take their learning seriously, even if classes are being conducted online.
Sean Gaillard, principal, Moore Magnet Elementary School, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Typically, a Friday in any schoolhouse is action-packed with a positive crescendo for students and teachers. Staff members are bedecked in relieving accoutrement of a Friday Jeans Day. Kids are wearing their various school and house colors.
This past Friday was different, however. It was filled with the backdrop of plans for e-Learning and uploading activities. Teachers were doing their absolute best to plan for a possible school closure while continuing the everyday rhythm of being present for our kids. We are living within the uncharted territory of a new world bannered by COVID-19.
I met with one of our teacher leaders to determine next steps and plans for distance learning. “We’re going to be okay.” Her words were firm, sincere and calm. At the conclusion of our meeting, I could hear the soothing chords of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles in my internal jukebox. As an unabashed fan of The Beatles, I always pick up a note and chord as a point of connection to my life.
"There is understandable fear for all involved as we learn the rules for a new, unknown game."
I am thinking of how Paul McCartney was driving out to visit his friend’s wife and child. McCartney’s purpose was to check in on Cynthia Lennon as she was separating from her husband, John Lennon. As Paul was driving, he thought of John and Cynthia’s son, Julian. Julian was around five-years-old, and Paul was like an uncle to him. Paul started to come up with words of consolation in the rough form of a song, as he drove to the Lennon’s home. Eventually, the impromptu lyrics that started out as “Hey Jules” with the advice for the child to transform a sad song into something better became the global #1 hit and timeless classic that is “Hey Jude.”
An act of sincere compassion by Paul McCartney for a child during an uncertain time became another note in a string of Beatle masterpieces.
Times of turmoil can yield elements of greatness. I think of “Hey Jude” as being an example of that and a lesson for educators during this coronavirus crisis. We, as educators, are dwelling in the path of uncertainty and doing our best to maintain composure. There is understandable fear for all involved as we learn the rules for a new, unknown game.
"I see school districts implementing plans for outreach when it comes to the digital divide and those families who rely upon schools for meals."
There is an abundance of outreach and compassion among educators everywhere. Visit social media to see the inspiring sharing of resources being fostered. Educators are resolute to maintain positivity, connection and the continuance of learning. Follow the hashtag on Twitter known as #remotelearning to experience the sincere sharing of resources and ideas to help in the classroom.
Furthermore, I see school districts implementing plans for outreach when it comes to the digital divide and those families who rely upon schools for meals. The compassion is difficult to enumerate but the positive resonance is there.
These are hard days, but I am grateful for the proactive moves educators are doing in support of our kids and each other. “Hey Jude” echoes in my mind as an example of how a sincere act of compassion is transformed into a timeless musical salve. A new riff is also echoing in my mind. It’s words of the teacher leader I am honored to serve and support: “We’re going to be okay.”
New journal for writing down book and podcast ideas. pic.twitter.com/AUNAPWyryJ
— Sean Gaillard (@smgaillard) March 15, 2020
- This article was originally published by PBS NewsHour Extra and can be found here.
- Find more remote learning resources to help with extended school closures.
- Learn more about the Coronavirus with Share My Lesson's tailored collection of resources, lesson plans and activities.