Op-Ed: A day in the life of teaching during pandemic
This was posted on her Facebook site. The Herald was granted permission to run as an opinion piece.
I woke up this morning to a parent post on this platform praising teachers, and, to be honest, I almost cried. See, yesterday (social media) was used by parents in this town to tear down teachers and the school system.
While some of the almost 200 comments were supportive, most ranted about the early release schedule and asked what teachers were doing once the kids left. My favorite was from a father who pondered “what do these [teachers] do from 3:30-5:00, when the rest of us are at work?” I’m paraphrasing because the blind rage I felt reading that has blurred my recall.
Since he went there, let me enlighten the masses about my workday that starts at 6:30 a.m., when 9-5ers are probably sound asleep. I spend my day frantically trying to make meaningful connections with kids whose faces I can’t really see, and cram 2.5 days of learning into 28 minutes. Once the students leave, at 12:25, I venture outside for a much-needed mask break and my 20-minute lunch. Then I return to my classroom to touch base with distant learners, and to answer the 1,000 emails from students who have suddenly lost the ability to navigate Google Classroom or check in for attendance.
I try to wade through and grade a smidgen of the massive amounts of student work that has overtaken my Google Classroom due to distance learning. And perhaps most importantly, I wrack my brain and the internet, trying to devise engaging content that will put a spark in the remote eyes that stare at me above the masks every period.
Six months of being out of the classroom has made even the most conscientious students academic zombies. It’s unnerving. When 2:25 comes, I stuff my work bag and head home. Exhausted. When I get home, I strip off my clothes, terrified that I’ve got some virus particles on me that I will now transmit to my 79-year-old mother, who watches my child all day.
Oh and yes, the child. Now comes the highlight of my day. It’s 2:30 and I now have to battle the 12-year old and helicopter her Google Classes to make sure she actually did what she’s so adamantly telling me she did, even though my phone has alerted me there’s work missing. I turn off the blaring Hamilton soundtrack and take away her Nintendo Switch and disconnect the group FaceTime, and the battle ensues. I’m the bad guy.
This high honors kid is not a fan of distant learning and now struggles with time management. And her struggle is mine. It’s now 3:00, and I grab my pup and a cup of coffee and head to my front porch for a few minutes of unwind.
But as I stare vacantly at my front lawn and enjoy the unconditional love only a dog can give, the nagging thoughts creep. Are my students submitting the work due today? Should I email them a reminder? Did I make a difference today? Why is student X not completing any work? And student Z emailed me again asking for more time because she’s overwhelmed. Me too, kid.
It’s 3:15 now and I give up on the alone time and plant myself in front of my laptop. Papers to grade, emails still coming in. Because when teachers leave work, the work doesn’t end. My mother taps me on the shoulder to remind me that I didn’t eat dinner. My kid comes in and sits on my lap for a cuddle. I’m not spending enough time with her. I know that. I close the laptop and give her all my attention. I can always work another hour or two once she’s asleep.
It’s 7:30. I left for work 13 hours ago. I’m exhausted and, quite frankly demoralized by the posts I read today. Teachers are struggling in this new environment, just as much as everyone else. And our responsibilities to our students are a weight we carry willingly. So when you read a post that’s denigrating teachers and feel the burning urge to respond in a negative way, don’t. Instead, go hug your kids. I can’t and they need it. Believe me.
Lynn Coffin has been a teacher at Shelton High School for the past 28 years.