Navigating School During COVID-19: A Teacher’s Perspective

Parenting kids through the uncertainty of the back-to-school season during COVID is not unlike being pushed off a cliff while blindfolded. Mid-fall, you’re told that at the bottom of the cliff is either a river of hungry crocodiles or the mouth of an active volcano – your choice! It’s a multi-faceted issue. 

I’m a teacher and a parent, so like many, I get to embody these two roles that can’t exist in silos. Many other parents are in the same scenario, and so it is unquestionably important to feel seen and understood right now. Here are a few of the various “boats” you might find yourself in right now, along with a word of encouragement to you, whichever boat (or boats) you find yourself straddling in-between.

I’m so torn… I want my kids to be in school, but I’m afraid of the risk it poses to my family’s health. 

If this describes you, you are not alone. I don’t think I’ve spoken with a parent yet who doesn’t feel this way. Teachers share this concern. We all want our kids and students to enjoy the benefits of being in school beyond instruction. We need childcare. We want our kids to play with other kids and enjoy the enormous socioemotional benefits of being with other children. We don’t want to see our kids struggle in the next academic year and fall behind.

On the other hand, we don’t want to put our kids or other loved ones at risk. What will happen when one student has a case of COVID in their family? We all worry that school will shut down again, more children and families will have to get tested, and instruction will halt. 

You are heard, you are understood, and you are doing a great job.

I’m a teacher. Even though I love my students, I feel like I’m being asked to risk my life for my job without any certainty of worker’s compensation. 

The teacher’s perspective is similar. Teachers worry for their students who depend on school for air-conditioning, meals, and refuge from unsafe home situations. Teachers worry about overwhelming parents with a barrage of online materials that might be futile for 50% of their class. We want to support our students in their extracurricular activities, and we also depend on the paycheck to feed our own families. One of the greatest losses that teachers feel is the missing rapport that develops only in the unique, safe, and familial environment of a classroom. 

You are heard, you are understood, and you are doing a great job.

I’m worried that my child’s teacher won’t be involved if learning goes online.

It won’t change anything, but your child’s teacher is motivated now more than ever to provide the best that they can for your kids. Teachers love teaching, and they are fighting to step up to the plate. Give your child’s teacher a little extra grace, understanding that teaching online is as undesirable for the teacher (if not more) than it is for parents. Teachers teach to be surrounded by the delight that they get from watching your kids learn and grow. Online learning is a disappointing, temporary (and possibly necessary) solution to what we are facing.

You are heard, you are understood, and you are doing a great job.

I’m concerned that my students’ parents aren’t going to help them engage or take it seriously if we’re forced to teach online.

Surely, there will be cases where this happens, but remember that many of your kids will participate. In the same way that you couldn’t change the life of each student who crossed your path in person, you won’t be able to do that now. Remember that little actions can make the biggest difference, and look forward to the time, maybe a few years from now, when you will be with your class in school and things will have returned to a new normal. Collaborate with other teachers. Start a teacher support group – you will need it now more than ever! 

You are heard, you are understood, and you are doing a great job.

Despair seems to surround us all in these strange times. All of the concerns surrounding this issue are valid, and I hear and see so much vitriol, especially on the internet.

Let’s take a step back. We’ve been told since March that these are “unprecedented” times. Let’s extend the grace that is due to one another. The response of grace that we need to give and receive is disproportionate to what we’re claiming about “unprecedented” times.

Parents, if you are worried about your kids falling behind this year, that’s okay. To say that this is difficult is a major understatement. All of our kids are going to fall behind this year, and I doubt I’m the first one to say it. But, that is okay! It’s okay for kids to fall behind this year. They’re going to. Let’s take healthy steps toward accepting that and doing the best we can anyway.

Our kids are awesome. Our parents are awesome. Our teachers are awesome. It might take a long time and we will have to do some hard work along the way, but I hope that we can slow down, re-prioritize, and extend abundant grace. We’re not in control, and yet, as far as school is concerned, we’re all going to be okay. Hang in there, and extend all the grace that you can, and then some.

One comment

  • I needed this. Thank you! My husband starts back as a music teacher tomorrow. He sees 600 kids a week, and we have an 8 week old at home. I am so scared. Praying a lot.

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