Teachers all across America have faced severe struggles and setbacks this year as a result of adapting their curriculums around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and successful acclimations have required extensive effort from all involved.
One art teacher in the Omaha metro area, who has wished to remain anonymous in order to offer a candid and comprehensive account of her experiences this fall, shared her specific story of this scattershot semester, with all of the troubles and all of the triumphs intact.
“Adjusting to the year has been a sea of ups and downs,” the teacher said. “I go through moments of feeling normal, and then I’ll get an email that a student in my class has tested positive [with COVID-19], and I instantly worry that I’m ill myself. I think battling with that fear and uncertainty has been one of the hardest struggles.”
Yet for this teacher,, the most difficult task this year is trying to keep track of every student’s singular academic situation as her class navigates COVID-19 as a collective group.
“I have students online, students in my classroom, students who are at home on quarantine, students who are on trips, or students who are simply gone for various other reasons,” the teacher said. “Trying to remember who is in what category and what assignments they need and when people are coming back to school has been mind-numbing. I’m constantly making packages [of art supplies] for kids to pick up so they can follow along at home, and often, those packages never actually get picked up. It can be very frustrating.”
Though those who lead the school have been just as stressed as the teachers themselves, they still have found ways to help out when necessary, especially as everyone attempts to accommodate to the “new normal.”
“[At first], our school had given us very little assistance,” the teacher said. “However, I do believe everyone is doing the best they can. We are in school at nearly full capacity five days a week. Luckily, just recently, we were given a small gift of a few days off during the semester to get caught up on planning. This [year] feels much more intense than [years before], so having extra days to catch up just to be able to put your foot back on the pedal again is so helpful.”
Nevertheless, when handling all of this uncontrolled upheaval and the countless concerns that arise each and every day, it can be hard at times for this teacher to remind herself of what made her so passionate about her profession in the first place.
“Some days I’m not sure what keeps me going, if I’m being honest,” this teacher said. “I often flip flop from thinking I shouldn’t care how my teaching is and thinking, ‘We’re in a damn pandemic, who cares if I’m not top-notch this year,’ but then I quickly sink into thoughts of being unworthy and start to believe that I am an awful teacher [for feeling that way].”
Still, at the end of the day, this teacher’s innate affection for the arts typically enlivens her excitement and eagerness for teaching, as does the spirit of her students.
“I think trying to do what makes me happy and continuing with my hobbies has kept me feeling better,” this teacher said. “And the students also help, because they’ve been so resilient and so flexible throughout all of this.”
In spite of everything else going on, this teacher also maintains that there has been so much to be thankful for this semester, and it’s important to not excessively concentrate on the complications of COVID-19.
“Personally, I am thankful for my health,” this teacher said. “I am also thankful for creative people, and I enjoy seeing [my students] think outside the box. I like seeing the human spirit rise in times of struggle, and I see this peppered throughout my day while teaching. These small actions and small encounters keep me positive that we might just figure this thing out.”