It is no secret, our world today is full of chaos and fear. We are in the middle of a pandemic and social injustice movements. As a Social Studies teacher, I can tell you this is going to be a difficult chapter to get through in the 2040 textbook. When the country shut down in March, my school bulldozed right into Remote Learning. We had 3 days to get our curriculum together and off we went. We did not know how long remote learning would last and how to even give a lesson online. The emotional part was I never was able to truly say goodbye to my students. March 13th I said “Bye Guys! Have a good weekend and I’ll see you Monday!” Then I never saw them in person again.
Switching from Remote Learning from Brick and Mortar education at first sounded like a dream come true! I did not have an awful commute, I could eat whenever I wanted, sleep in, use the bathroom whenever I wanted, and work in pajamas! The issue was, I couldn’t see my students anymore, all I had was a computer in my face for 7 hours.
There was no fun engaging lessons, such as debates, escape rooms, gallery walks, and simulation games. All we had as teachers and students was a computer screen in front of them. To add on to the stress, everyone was under quarantine lockdown. Everyone was trapped in their homes with nowhere to go and just had Google Meets to get them by.
My work life shifting in such a massive way that I was not prepared for while dealing with a mass pandemic created darkness in me. I was anxious all the time. This made me incredibly irritable and on edge at any given moment. I was nasty to my family, friends, and boyfriend. I complained all the time how much my life changed and that no one understood how I was feeling. I felt useless, I could not teach my students anymore. I just would give them an assignment and grade it.
The fire in my soul for teaching died out. I couldn’t laugh with my students and help them with their middle school dramas. If they did a phenomenal job on an assignment there was no high five and shout out to the class, it was just 100% in Google Classroom.
Many students fell off the bandwagon and did not complete any work so, I was putting up assignments for no reason. I don’t blame them, they are 12–13 years old taking 6 online classes during a pandemic, I did not want to do any work either. Sadly, many of my students’ family members passed of COVID-19 as well. I felt horrible that I could not be there for them, all I could do was send a sympathy email.
So, to reach out to my students, I created an assignment. I explained to them that they are living through a historical event that will eventually be in textbooks. This makes them primary sources, (eye witness accounts or sources created about the period they are about). I asked them to write a diary entry about how they were feeling during this time. I asked them to write about what they were doing to keep themselves busy, how have they stayed connected with people, what new hobbies have they tried, etc… The purpose of this was to give my students an outlet to express themselves and a way I can help them through this unforeseen pandemic.
I am a huge advocate for writing in journals to release stress. Some students may not have anyone to talk to at home so, I wanted to create a way to be there for them. I responded to every single journal entry and gave them encouragement, advice, insight, and feedback. This created a safe place for my students to express themselves and created a conversation. Many students told me how lonely they were, how they missed school, they were struggling with remote learning, they lost family members, family members lost their jobs, the list goes on. I was struggling as well and helping my students conquer issues helped me conquer my issues as well.
I told my team about the diary entries and we decided to create a Google Meet for us and the students to chat about life. We had a Google Meet set up for every Friday, those days were “Make Up” days for the students which gave them time to have a Google Meet with us. In Google Meet, we talked about how the pandemic affected all of us. What our fears were, what positives could we find at this time, what new skills did we learn, Tik Tok dances, how we can make our lessons better for the students. One session everyone showed their pets and the kids were able just to talk to each other. We shared laughs over memes, video games, movies, and shows.
The students were appreciative that we made these meetings for them. It gave them something to look forward to. Us, as teachers loved it as well because we were able to interact with the students and each other. It made quarantine not seem as lonely and everyone was going through this hard time together. At the end of the school year, we watched our virtual graduation ceremony during our last Google Meet and students were able to reminisce together about their last year in middle school. I also created a virtual yearbook for my students to sign since we did not get to have a proper send-off. My students thanked me for reaching out to them with that assignment and creating the Google Meet. They said it brightened their day and were glad they had me as a teacher. Many said those Google Meets helped them through dark times and were grateful for them.
This is why I do what I do. I live to serve and help anyone that I can. I could have sat in my sorrows of the pandemic but, I decided to be kind for my students. I decided to be there for them. We as humans always have that choice to be kind. You never know how much of an impact that kindness can have on a person. That diary entry was just a check-in assignment to see how they were doing and it turned into weekly meetings for the students to find hope in a time where hope was a distant memory. I always tell my kids to be kind because you never know what someone may be going through. Be the light for someone because that light may be the reason they finally come out of the darkness.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
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