Going back to work at a school in the middle of a global pandemic has been chaotic and "a lot" many days over the last two weeks.
In comparison, providing professional development for teachers the last four years gave me sort of a buffer between what is actually happening in the classrooms and what my job entailed. I could drop in and out of a school to do my job and leave. Or most recently, I could train hundreds of teachers at a time using Google Meet or Zoom and do my best to show them the tools that I love and trust using during digital learning and hang up the call at the end.
The teachers are the ones who are obviously on the front line with the students and doing their best to show up each and every day. This was the truth before Covid-19 and before a pandemic hit, teachers are the ones wiping away tears when kids are sad that Mommy and Daddy fight at home, or when they get bullied on the playground and need someone to listen to them. Teachers are the ones spending hours in the afternoons after the school day is over trying to figure out the best strategy to make sure that their students feel successful with the new math curriculum.
Teachers have always poured their hearts into what they are doing. And so many teachers continue showing up despite years of low pay and people not appreciating all the work they put into every single day, because at the end of the day, we know that teachers play a huge part into the children that grow up to change this world.
Yet, I feel like it goes unsaid, that most teachers are unappreciated for all the hours, time, and tears they put into their jobs. If you look at statistics, teachers are usually paid much less than other careers for the same amount of required higher-education and time spent on the job.
And this year of 2020 when the Covid-19 Global Pandemic reached doorsteps around the world and schools closed, teachers without any notice or extra preparation were suddenly required to be virtual teachers. Literally, overnight, teachers who spent years in the classrooms, cultivating strategies to best reach students and thriving on the connection within the walls of a classroom were looking at a screen and simply hoping that their students would show up on the other side.
Distance Learning as we've seen has highlighted the gap that exists between communities, school districts and families as suddenly families were required to have devices and internet bandwidth that could handle multiple online classes. Teachers were required to figure out how to make engaging lessons online while staring at little Brady-Bunch like grids on a screen.
From one day to the next, I witnessed teachers who had perhaps resisted or ignored different technology platforms suddenly rely on them and learn new things overnight. And through it all, I hear teachers and families around the world replaying the mantra over and over in our heads....
We can do hard things.
Because virtual learning is hard. It's hard for the teachers learning how to screen-cast, how to create websites, how to use engaging assessments. It's hard for families trying to keep a full-time job while also getting their kindergartner online to do another Zoom class.
It's hard this first week back to school for us in Mexico, with kids having the option to go meet their teacher in the classroom while everyone wears masks and shields and parents have to make sure their child doesn't touch anything while within the school walls and teachers are terrified that families will actually choose to come into the classroom.
Yet, it's hard explaining to our almost 3-year old who is starting at a new preschool that her teacher is in a computer and she will have to sit still to listen to the teacher each day and that Mommy will do my best to carve out some time in the day between my own meetings to help her do learning activities at home.
It's hard that our 5 year old will start kindergarten online this year. It's definitely not how we envisioned the first day of school pictures or the start of this monumental year while he sits looking at people on a screen.
This is all hard.
But we're all in this together. Many schools around the world have chosen to go back face-to-face. We are seeing teachers gearing up in PPE or face masks and shields trying to teach their kids letter sounds without being able to show them their lips and how to form the sounds. We are seeing families, struggling economically, trying to figure out how to get a device to "catch their child up." None of this is ideal and it is hard.
And once again, I just stand in awe at teachers around the world who as always have stepped up and keep showing up, whether it's learning new online platforms or literally risking their lives going back to school. Our society relies so much on teachers and our education system.
I'm grateful that so many of my friends around the world are teachers and share their perspective on social media or on calls as we continue connecting and collaborating from our corners of the globe.
This week, on the the podcast, I interviewed one of my best friends Jacqueline Endres. Jacque is going into her 15th year of teaching and has taught both in Arizona and in Mexico. She shared with us how hard this is for teachers, and gave her perspective as a working mom trying to teach her Zoom classes while also ensuring her two boys get on their classes. Jacque also shared the sentiment that as hard as things are right now, there could be good things that come out of this. As teachers, we could innovate and learn new methods to carry back into the classroom with us when we're all allowed back in.
I truly believe teachers are heroes. Teachers are showing up and doing the best they can. As much criticism that I've seen over the last months about online learning, I think it's worth remembering that this is hard and that everyone is showing up and doing what they can.
And I think we can all repeat this mantra over and over again, "We can do hard things".
And remind our kids that they can too.
Make sure to listen to Episode 23 on the podcast: "Back to School from a Teacher's Perspective"