Reflections From a Former Teacher

Teaching isn’t new to me. I spent thirteen years in classrooms across multiple grades at both elementary and secondary levels. Then I shifted my teaching to working with adults as I moved into Curriculum and Instruction and then into Career and Technical Education, for a total of 19 years in education before shifting gears this past summer when I took on the role of Educational Specialist with VLK Architects.

You would think my education experience would helped prepare me for the announcement on Friday, March 13. No school for at least two additional weeks to help slow/stop the spread of COVID-19. My teacher’s brain kicked in. I established a daily schedule my kids, created a poster for them to use as a reference, and had resources ready for virtual field trips and different activities set up for my three girls, ranging from 3rd to 8th grade.

Monday, March 16, we got started. Each “student” had things to work on, and we used the schedule to help break up the monotony of the day. Here’s where it got interesting. My “students” were demanding of my time, but I still needed to continue with my usual workload. Students can be needy, no matter their ages. They need interaction and consistent and specific feedback to help them grow. Keeping up with this part of teaching while juggling my work responsibilities would be the most challenging.

While it would have been more comfortable to allow my “students” to sit in front of the television, I refused. (There went my digital babysitter!) I have to continually reinvent our day to strike a balance between teacher, Educational Specialist, and mom.

Currently, we break up our day by going on at least one or two walks. We have specific tasks to work through at different times of the day. We take virtual field trips to museums and historical monuments. We listen to famous authors read to us and draw with famous artists. This time is unlike anything ever experienced, and people are trying to digitally help each other out. There have been libraries opened for free books! Dance classes with world-class choreographers offered for free! Many costly digital tools when my children are at school are now for free! We’re taking advantage of this opportunity, and will continue to do so throughout our new normal.

Our school district is doing all they can to help us out. At the beginning of this new reality, they began giving out food to pick up across the community; it started with lunch, and then they added breakfast. Many students are partaking in this opportunity, and I’m sure it’s helping both parents and students maintain a bit of normalcy while ensuring that all students can have access to food. On Monday, March 23, our school district released lesson plans and curriculum resources for my girls, along with checking out technology to children across the area. The instructional leaders have been working diligently to get these materials put together so that our students across the district can continue to grow. I have seen many teachers hosting Zoom meetings with their students to keep them encouraged and motivated while allowing them to check in on them. Principals are presenting students with challenges on social media to keep families and students engaged while giving them something to anticipate. The educational community is pulling together to do what is best for kids!

One of the most significant things I’ve learned through this is to give myself grace. I can’t do it all, and I can’t do everything at the same time. It truly is a juggling act, and sometimes a plate stops spinning or isn’t spinning fast enough, and it falls. What happens next is up to you. Let the plate fall and forget about it, or pick it up and reintegrate it into the juggling. I’m going to do my best to keep juggling and to pick up those pieces that fall into my routine—one day at a time.

Trying to take this time to enjoy my family, get some extra rest, and reflect on the blessings we have. That’s important since we just learned that Governor Greg Abbott announced that all schools across the state of Texas would remain closed until at least April 3. That’s an additional week of this juggling act. I’m going to have to sit down this weekend and create some plans for us that will allow us to break up the day a bit more while allowing for some intentionally designed time for creativity.

Click to read more from the Surviving Quarantine Symbaloo – it compiles a lot of the free and accessible resources for similar situations.