Year two is officially done. We were done on Tuesday…I take that back. The student’s last day was on Tuesday (May 25th) and our last day was Thursday (May 27th…at 2:00pm). This year has not been easy for a long shot. This was….such a long year it feels. Teaching already is such a tough job to do but add in COVID restrictions and it was….a shit show. Where do I even begin?
First, our start date was up in the air. We had no idea on what day would be the first day of school and the school decided to start around August 10, 2020. Apparently we started with around 300 students in the building (we were on a hybrid model all year) and by the end of the year, over 1,000 students were back in the building. I work at a title 1 school so I was quite surprised at the number of kids we had starting out in the building (although to me, more middle school students were there than elementary so the change wasn’t felt that much).
We had kids who either didn’t really have internet access at home or students who just didn’t show up who were failing the first semester back. See, when we all were sent online in March of 2020, pretty much anything went. It was such a huge learning curve that basically it didn’t matter if kids showed up or did the work at all, they were going to pass regardless (thanks Gov. DeSantis) so by the time school started that fall, the kids thought that it didn’t matter if they showed up or did the work…they’d pass (boy were they wrong). Many were shocked to find that yes indeed it did matter whether they showed up and did the work or not.
Another big learning curve the students had to hurdle were that they had more than one class. If you don’t know, I teach 6th graders so this is their first time juggling multiple classes and having to earn credits to graduate middle school (and high school). I made sure to tell the parents when work was due and I stressed it to the students. I even warned them that if they didn’t tighten up, they’d be making up the credit (basically retake the course) that they didn’t earn on top of the work that they would have in their other classes. Again, it fell on deaf ears until they got called down to the office about them taking course recovery classes. Some even were mistaken because they focused solely on course recovery and not on the assignments they had at hand.
Another thing we had to deal with was no lunch break. Don’t get me wrong, we had a time that we had to eat lunch, but it was in the classroom, which meant us teachers had to be with the students ALL DAY. They did try for a few days to have the students go down to the cafeteria to eat but that was a complete shit show. They couldn’t figure out a time when the kids could safely eat lunch and let’s be real, there was no social distancing at all in the cafeteria. They tried to say three students to a bench but eventually, they all would scoot close to their friends. It was pretty rowdy but then again, it was the only time they can really talk to their friends. They had so many confusing methods of trying to have them eat lunch in the cafeteria that after three or four days of confusion, kids were back in the classroom eating lunch with their 5th period class. Again, no real social distancing and they were again rowdy because it was a time for them to socialize. I guess the way admin saw it was that it was our problem. On another note, my 5th period was awful because it was the longest class of the day and I had a bad mix of kids. Individually they (the majority of them) were fine but mix them up? It was a nightmare.
There was no real educational support. We didn’t have an ESE teacher (special ed teacher) and we only had two ESOL specialist for the entire school (grades K-8th) so needless to say, we all kind of struggled with that one. Some students who needed a more self-contained classroom was with the general population and it was hard to manage them and their needs with the needs of others both in the classroom and online. We all did our best but it was really hard. Plus we had to do certain things that I personally did not feel comfortable doing but for the sake of education, I did it. Basically, we weren’t allowed to fail students with IEP’s (even if they didn’t do the work) because we didn’t have an ESE teacher.
Another way in which we didn’t have support was with discipline. Again, I worked at a title 1 school so sometimes there was low parental involvement. A few parents were willing to work with us and tried to help when we called or emailed them about their child’s behavior. Others…we never heard back from until the week before school ended when they magically found our emails and wanted to know what their child can do to pass or who were outraged because they were “never told” (lie) about their child’s progress. Admin also wasn’t much help either. The response was long and sometimes, never really addressed. The kids thought that they can get away with their terrible behavior and for repeat offenders, we just had to deal with it. It’s not like they didn’t know which kids were problems, they knew, they just never really did anything about it. Don’t even get me started on the N-word incident I had at my school (see this post here). I got called the N-word twice and admin did nothing about it.
Also, the more kids came back in the building, the less social distancing it was. Some of the parents were even shocked as to the students being near each other. A lot of social distancing rules went out the window but us teachers did the best we could with the situation. We weren’t allowed to use paper in the beginning but then by the end, they wanted us to use paper but we weren’t allowed to print them ourselves. We had to send it to someone else and hope that they saw the email and was able to print them out. We also had trouble with the technology themselves. I suggested we invest in a program to help monitor and control the student devices so that they weren’t going on YouTube and secret chat rooms and basically doing everything else they weren’t supposed to. They kept promising they’d have something to deal with it and it NEVER happened. For next year they said they were going to invest in a program like that (yet again) but we shall see. Don’t even get me started on teaching both online and in-person students simultaneously.
I’m sure you’re like, did you enjoy the year at all? The answer to that is yes! There were aspects that I enjoyed. Like getting to spend the whole year with my students. Previously I only spent the half year with them so this was the first group I had all year. Another thing I enjoyed was getting to know my students and their backgrounds. They saw that I cared and a lot of them opened up to me about their home life or troubled past. I also enjoyed the fact that some were reading books! A lot did not want to read at all and with the help of First Chapter Friday, by the end of the year, I had kids asking to borrow books and kids reading! Also, I had the chance to have my first real Teacher’s Appreciation Week (read about it on this post). I grew to love so many of my babies that by dismissal on the last day of school, I was in tears because I would miss them so much. I loved building and fostering relationships with them.
So, what am I looking forward to now? Enjoying my summer and relaxing. I’m applying to work at other schools but I have been asked back so if I don’t get another position, I’ll be back at my current school.
If you’re a teacher out there and you’re not on break yet, I’m praying for you. Our job is not easy and it is definitely not for the faint of heart. We’re all in this together!