Wow! Its been awhile since I blogged about my thoughts, since the pandemic hit in fact. Last March I was getting energized at the MACUL annual conference in Grand Rapids when the education world was up ended by COVID. This pandemic has changed all of us. At first I tought it would be good to document the pandemic. I struggled to put it down in writing so I captured my thoughts on my Instagram account. From March to June I put out a daily message to my students to encourage them to continue the learning process. Summer brought homes of a return to normal that faded quickly in August.
The 2020-2021 school year was the most difficult in my 21 year career. My district made difficult decisions that were best for students. Teachers returned to school in August to teach all students virtually as the team planned for a return to in person learning. By September 28, 2020 we allowed all students back who desired to return to the building with masks and social distancing. This account for about 50% of our student population. To make this work our teachers were streached thin. Teaching seperate in-person and virtual schedules, our normal middle school schedules were up ended making way to a modified schedule to focus on esentials. As the year went on state reguliations required us to switch all students back to virtual at times. As the year progressed more students were welcomed back to school when they felt it would be comfortable.
The year was taxing on all of us. Teachers were forced to teach in new ways. Designing lessons that for virtual students and put an emphasis on social distancing. Normally classrooms instruction has been designed to engage students in conversations and hands on activities. This year was different, it focused on self exploration and individual discovery. I observed so much learning by students that engaged in the process. Learning the new technology. Learning how to self engage and stay motived. I also observed students struggles. Some online students struggled to engage and complete tasks to show learning. In person students stuggled in similar ways since they were enjoying socialization that hadn’t happened since the pandemic started.
As an educator this year wore me down. Working on lesson delievery for two different type of classrooms (online and in person) was time consuming and stressful. I felt responsible for ALL of my students’ learning. When they struggled, I looked for new ways to engage and motivate. My online students were sending messages at all hours of the day, while also not responding to my messages or replys. Contacts with parents and at home students was at an all time high. I felt that I needed to do everything possible to ensure my students could learn.
At first I welcomed all the “free” resources and PD. As the pandemic progressed, I became overhelmed with a focus on my students and my survival. PD was not what I needed. I needed time. I needed feedback, I needed more support. PD seemed to be education thought leaders could provide. Constant emails about PD, much of it was about tech tools and self care. NO thank you. I was worn down. My students feedback was to keep learning in a systematic way with tools they knew. Changing to new tech tools or in class tools whould have hampered our learning. Me missing classes or spending afternoon and evenings completing PD would have further burned me out.
Now that it is summer, I know that schools and learning has changed for ever. Students learned so much over the past 18 months, most of which will never be reflected in grades or test scores. This learning will be valuable and important as we move forward as a K-12 education system. Hopefully I will have time to reflect more this summer so I will be ready for school and new learning opportunities in fall.