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Historically, teachers and administrators must show strength and bravery during tumultuous times. We tell ourselves that we must be strong for our students because the children need us. We must be a strong tower to lean on and very composed for all to see. Yet, some of us are falling apart inside and out. Today, let’s throw off the masks. Educators, admit that we’re not okay!
The year 2020 is half over, and it’s a bumpy ride. The year began like any other, and then COVID19 hit our nation and the world. We were not prepared for a pandemic. Schools closed without knowing that we would not return for the remainder of the year. Teachers and administrators had to shift gears in every area of education.
A recent Wall Street Journal article, The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work, states the pandemic forced schools into a crash course in online education. Teachers are used to planning and preparing. COVID19 did not give us time to do so. Suddenly, students were sent home, and instantly, e-learning became a thing. Educators were thrown into a whirlwind. Districts quickly put together some guidelines to follow, but everything was haphazard. No one was ready for what hit us.
Students and parents were not prepared either for remote learning. Many students do not have access to the technology needed for e-learning. Districts tried to provide computers for students in need. Also, some students and parents do not have access to WiFi. Yes, companies offered access at a reduced rate, but some parents could not afford another bill. Everyone is stressed!
Teaching is a profession where communicating with students and parents is a priority. When classes are in person, seeing and speaking to your students is an everyday thing. We are on the frontlines like first responders. As educators, we develop relationships with the children and learn their nuances, triggers, likes, and dislikes. We can look in their faces or eyes and know when they are happy, sad, angry, or scared. Our students know our moods, and we know theirs. E-learning takes away a certain amount of humanity. The computer screen can hide emotions and signs of distress in the children we teach. So, to add on to the stress, we now have worry, too.
We worry for the students who were already on edge or have social-emotional issues. Schools are often a safe haven for children who live in unstable homes where physical or emotional abuse is present. Teachers and administrators also agonize for the families during the COVID pandemic. In schools with a majority of low-income families, parents are at risk of unemployment and financial calamity. We are anxious that our students are hungry and possibly homeless if their parents cannot afford to pay the rent.
Yet, educators are supposed to appear to be strong despite our anxieties. Again, we mask our feelings instead of admitting that we are not okay. Many teachers can tell you that they have lost track of some students. Despite calling emergency contacts and several phone numbers, a large percentage of children are lost in the system of remote learning. During a typical school year, we can make home visits and knock on doors. However, the pandemic has us on lockdown. When we cannot locate a student, it is a significant stressor. We care about the well-being of the children and their families.
Just as COVID19 threw us all out of whack, the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer lit a fire across the United States. Peaceful, protesters, rioters, and looters took to the streets in major cities. Neighborhoods and communities took massive hits of destruction. Buildings, stores, pharmacies, and more no longer exists in areas that were already barely existing. Now, our students had to witness a mix of peaceful protests, violence, and destruction. They also witnessed the explosion of anger and trauma like the combustion of emotions. Plus, the children don’t have the school building as a safe haven anymore. Again, we are unable to reach out to comfort our students during the turmoil. It’s too many unknowns for us to handle.
Educators, let’s admit that we’re not okay! Why are we expected to be fine? How do we deal with much heartache, burdens of the pandemic, and the societal ills that affect our students? These issues are traumatic for us, too. Why are we expected to be experts at e-learning at the drop of a dime? No one was prepared for remote learning to be the only source of teaching for months. How do we deal with the expectations that educators must weather any storm, no matter how devastating?
Teachers and administrators, let’s begin with admitting that we’re not okay and just as fragile as any other humans. We are hurting, too. It is okay to cry, shout, and be vulnerable. If you need to seek support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor, colleague, or family member. The last thing you want to do is hold in your emotions and become overwhelmed with distress. Your worries and concerns need to be heard, too. Admit that you are not okay and take the time to heal.
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