Teachers have always been masters of the “pivot,” making hundreds of decisions daily and living in perpetual flexibility. So, it is no surprise that teachers have risen to the occasion, yet again. In this article we want you to meet two heroes of the profession -- one seasoned teacher in her 6th year teaching 6th grade at a Title One school in the mid-south, and one brand new teacher in her very first year teaching 2nd grade in the rural mid-south.
We want to share the stories of these teachers and how they are thriving and surviving in their first weeks of teaching in the midst of a global pandemic and how others might follow their lead. In true 2020 fashion, we joined a Zoom call for a long conversation. Ms. Bell and Ms. Smith shared their experiences with showing up for their kids, with three themes in particular leading the discussion. Within each theme is a tip for remote instruction used by these incredible teachers.
Showing Up with a Genuine Desire for Connection
Creating connections has been a challenge. Ms. Smith told us about the difficulty connecting and communicating with parents in the midst of ever-changing information and COVID related rules that block visitors from entering the schools. But as we were chatting on Zoom on a Saturday evening, Ms. Smith had just finished one on one Zoom calls with every student in her class. She told them stories about herself and listened as the students showed off their favorite toys and pets. They even laughed together when Ms. Smith’s camera was unintentionally pointed to the ceiling rather than her face.
Showing Up with a Growth Mindset
Ms. Bell began our conversation with a story of a brand-new student who could not get her sound to work on her Zoom call. The student felt frustrated and ultimately, unheard. Ms. Bell felt powerless as she could not “I.T.” her way out of this one. After getting off of the call, Ms. Bell said to herself, “I showed up. I was there. I will be there tomorrow and the next day and any time in between.” She took a deep breath. Trying was a win. She would try again tomorrow. She communicated this to the mother and girl in her class. This growth mindset is crucial for both students and teachers to adopt in 2020. Through our effort, consistency, and belief that we can grow and change, students and teachers will make it through!
Showing Up for Yourself
Both Ms. Bell and Ms. Smith stressed the importance of self-care during this time, but also expressed the difficulty of making it happen. The mantra for this year has been one of flexible acceptance. Both Ms. Bell and Ms. Smith said that at times they have given in to the limitation of teaching both remotely and in person, accepting the realities of this year and making the best of the situation. “It is what it is. I am still a good teacher. And I will keep showing up,” said Ms. Bell. This mindful acceptance has allowed for some semblance of inner peace for these teachers. They are encouraging their colleagues to take a moment for yourself, don’t feel pressure to respond to that email right away, and lean on teammates for support and encouragement.
Whether you are in your first year as a teacher or your 20th year, this year is unprecedented and HARD. Ms. Smith said it perfectly when she said that the teaching community is a team- a band of brothers - sharing in an experience that really only another teacher can understand. We salute you, teachers. Your work is heroic.