How are teachers coping with the new reality? Is teaching the way we know going to be over in the future? These questions are on every stressed teacher’s mind in 2020 and 2021.
Looking back to September 2020 and thinking about the challenges we face every day with the world’s situation and remote teaching, I think my expectations changed. I would not say I lowered them but teaching on Zoom and having to deal with adversities that are not under my control, made me reflect on my initial expectations, not only for my Zoom sessions but also academically and emotionally for my students.
We, teachers, are, by nature, resilient. We have been facing challenges ever since we chose this profession, and this situation is another one. I want to acknowledge how hard this has been for everybody. For every teacher who feels overworked and stressed: you are not alone.
I have grown a lot since September as a teacher who understands that every student is unique, and every environment is rich and challenging at the same time. I have been flooded by positive messages everywhere, not only on social media talking about how this pandemic is an opportunity to develop new projects, learn a new language, exercise more and drink two liters of water. This positivity is certainly not what teachers need. If you are looking for a super positive vibe, we are going to talk about reality here.
At the very beginning of the year, expectations were discussed with students on the first day of school and we came up with “essential agreements”.
Working with this group of 2nd graders this fall has brought me immense joy. I have chosen to reinforce expectations whenever needed as a group or individually when necessary (private chat or asking students to stay logged on after a session for a brief talk).
This way, my students recognize the need to meet expectations and they can check themselves and correct what needs to be corrected. It does not impact the learning because I organically reinforce expectations, using positive language, and not putting any student on the spot.
On one day, I had a student sharing during a morning meeting, and I could hear in the background that his older brothers were in the room with him. One of his brothers used foul language to refer to another student in the class and I immediately sent the boy to a breakout room and asked him to stay logged on because I wanted to speak to his parents and asked him to move to a quieter place in the house.
As another example, when students are distracted or lose focus, they are redirected by me. I remind all students of the expectations and tell them that I expect 100% of my students to be on board. If this does not show itself to be successful, I sent my student a private message in the chat.
It is also important to have a good relationship with the families. I have kept close contact with all families, texting parents and calling each family, at least, once every two weeks to get feedback from parents. They have kept me posted about any situation that arises in the family, establishing a trustful relationship.
Focusing On Professional Development
In the end, I believe we must live in the present and carry on with our lives despite the challenges we are now facing. I also believe we need to try to do things that bring us a sense of normality, even during this abnormal situation.
A way of doing that is to reflect on our professional development. I am not talking about a race against the clock but taking this time to gain new perspectives about the foreseeable future. It may sound strange to think about the future now, but all this will pass.
In the past year, I saw teachers being made redundant; others having to endure torment when they did not sign up for remote teaching. A pandemic show in case someone still wanted to turn a blind eye, the true colors of teaching. The unpalatable truth is that many of us are subject to people who do not have a clue about what they are doing and think education can be treated like any other product that is marketable. It is not and it cannot.
Overseeing your professional life in times of need does not mean that you must take a course right now. It means that you must remind yourself that this situation is not permanent. Once you find yourself mentally healthy, be it now or in the future, consider making a list of what you need to improve. When it is financially doable, invest in areas that will make you a better teacher.
As much as deciding your next step may be overwhelming, it can be a great way to escape our current reality in a productive way. We are bombarded with very good options of ways to develop. We have never lived in more exciting times that allow us to learn from home. Firstly, I usually recommend that you figure out whether you want to focus on improving your teaching or your language skills. When in doubt, I advocate for the latter.
As for teacher development opportunities, there are endless possibilities. I am a great believer in the educational system, however, remember, you do not need to expect more then you or your students can achieve.
Our society encourages us to be supermen and superwomen. During these crazy and difficult times, my humble words of advice to you are stay home, stay sane and do not forget who you are. After all, most of us have become teachers because we are passionate about learning. If possible, continue learning. If not, remember you will be able to keep developing once this passes and it will pass. May you all stay healthy.
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