Being a teacher during a pandemic has been one of the most challenging things I have been through, to say the least. This year has been so different for myself, other teachers and students. As a teacher, we are experiencing many emotions in a single day. I am a second year teacher in a Pre-K classroom. However, I have worked in this school as a substitute and a coach over the past four years.
My school has been in-person since the beginning of September. During that time, teachers were just trying to survive, hoping to make it to Christmas break while still being in-person. We went into the year excited to be a school that is having in-person class. Little did we know this would be the hardest year of all.
Many things have changed since we were in class last spring. Masks are a big change, of course. But have you ever had to keep twelve 3-year-olds in a mask all day? It is not an easy task. We are having to remind students each minute of the day to pull up their mask, “put on your mask,” and “no, you cannot take your mask off.”
It may not seem like a hard job, but it is sad. You can no longer see the smile of students or how they are feeling, emotions are hidden. Before, I loved seeing students smile, and now I am just frustrated that they are hidden behind a mask.
This year, custodial staff cannot ensure classrooms are clean on their own. Teachers are having to do extra steps to make sure they are keeping their students healthy. After every play time? Spray it all down. After recess? Wipe all the equipment. Every time they touch a pencil? Wipe it. This is emotionally draining. Teachers are having to stop what they are doing and spend a lot of time having to clean.
However, the school is providing what we need until we run out. If we happen to run out of cleaning supplies, then teachers have to go and buy the products ourselves. As you can imagine, these cleaning products can be costly. Children are not getting the education they need when teachers are having to spend most of their day cleaning.
We are also having to keep students six feet apart. Being a young child, it is developmentally important for children to have interaction with other children. Students are having trouble trying to stay so far apart because all they want to do is play with one another. Teachers are also having to accommodate for this in their plans by determining where to have the children placed. It is all an extra step for teachers.
In the past students were put in groups of four in a play area while the teacher is working with a student. Since the arrival of the pandemic, students are not able to be in groups. Each student has to have his or her own toy in a certain section of the room to avoid close contact. Another accommodation that we now have in place involves outside time. In the past years, students were able to play outside with other classes. Now, each class has a certain time they are allowed to go outside. This also limits interaction for the students.
When I went into this profession, I was not taught how to teach during a pandemic. No amount of schooling will ever prepare you to be a teacher. It has been a learning process for me and for other teachers. However, I am glad that I am able to be in a classroom and not behind a camera, because at least I do get some interaction with students.
Teachers and students are tired emotionally, physically, and emotionally. Teaching during a pandemic is not for the weak.