I’m in my second year as a middle school teacher. And while last year was challenging and frustrating for a variety of reasons, this year has been worse. And we’ve only been in school for three weeks.
With COVID-19 still running rampant, I knew this school year was going to be challenging. I just didn’t realize how challenging, until it began…
Challenge number one: Not starting the school year with all of my students.
Unfortunately, we did not start school at 100% capacity. Many of our students started off virtually because they either had COVID or had been exposed to someone with COVID and were on quarantine. Not being able to start the school year with all of my students present, was heartbreaking. It made me sad to know that some of my students were going to have to miss the start of the year, and would possibly feel behind by the time they were able to attend in person.
It was also frustrating. Since some of my students were absent, I had to make sure to email them everything they’d be missing during the first two weeks of school. Which brings me to…
Challenge number two: Trying to keep up with all of my virtual students
With each passing day of school, more and more students are put on quarantine. Little by little my classes have started to dwindle in number. I went from having classes with 20+ students, to classes with only nine or ten students because students had tested positive for COVID, or been exposed to someone who did, and had to be quarantined for two weeks. I even had one entire class period that was put on quarantine because three students in that class tested positive.
With half of my students out on quarantine, and more being added each day, it’s become hard to keep track of what emails I’ve sent to whom, and what classwork I’ve sent out. The first week of school I sent out an email to my virtual students letting them know what they had missed. After that, I planned on sending out an email every Monday, letting my virtual students know what we were doing in class that week, and what work they would need to complete.
Well, with each passing day, I’ve received notice of more and more students who were going to be out. Those once-a-week emails turned into once-a-day emails. It became confusing and overwhelming trying to keep track of who I had sent what to. I and my fellow teachers began making checklists of students we had sent information to. And with each day, comes a new student to add to the list.
Challenge number three: Twice as much work
Having students who are working virtually and students who are in-person creates twice as much work. It’s one thing to make regular lesson plans and classwork for my students, but now I’m also having to turn those into virtual lessons as well. You can’t do the exact same drama class activities in class as you can online. Therefore, I’m creating twice as many lesson plans, and I only have one hour a day to do so; one planning period a day.
As a result, I’ve been having to take work home almost every night. Between creating twice as many lesson plans, emailing students information and assignments every day, communicating with parents, making sure both my in-person students and virtual students get the help they need, attending faculty meetings, answering questions from both students and parents, creating documents and Zoom links, grading, and doing all the things, I have more work to do than I had at this time last year; way more work than I should have.
To say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement. Full disclosure, it’s been a nightmare. Things are extremely overwhelming emotionally, mentally, and physically. There is so much pressure coming my way … pressure from the administration to do things a certain way, pressure from parents who have high expectations, pressure from students who are struggling to work at home, pressure from myself to live up to my own teaching standards, and the pressure to be ready at the drop of a hat for things to change.
It’s been so bad that I was actually happy to hear that our school is going to be virtual for the next two weeks. Happy at the prospect of having ALL of my students attend school in only ONE format, instead of two. Happy because I only have to focus on making one type of lesson plan, class activities, and assignments, instead of multiple.
Check on your children’s teachers and your teacher friends. We are NOT OK right now.
Yes, teaching is a rewarding job. The difference I have seen in my students from the start of the year to the end amazes me. But, right now, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, I feel like I’m in The Neverending Story and am Atreyu’s horse trying to get through the muck, but I’m losing all hope and am sinking instead.
It’s only the start of September and I’m already feeling burnt out. And I know I’m not the only teacher feeling this way. So, find ways to support the teachers you know; your friends and family who are teachers, and your children’s teachers. Bring them a Starbucks, or some chocolate. Give them a gift card they can use to buy themselves lunch. Make them a meal so that they don’t have to cook after a long exhausting day. Ask them what they need and how you can support them. Even just saying, “thank you” goes a long way.