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What I Have Learned from Teaching During a Pandemic

*I wrote this reflection during the 21-22 school year. I was not yet ready to place these words in a public manner until recently.


The 2021-2022 school year was my fifth year teaching fourth grade at a Catholic school in California. I was not yet teaching as a public school teacher and had not taught in a public school district, aside from my student teaching and substitute teaching experiences five years prior. The below thoughts and takeaways reflect my own personal experience while teaching during a pandemic.


The timeline . . .


Our school shifted to distance learning in late March of 2020. What was thought to be two weeks of creating digital lessons for my students turned into a completely new journey - one that I think every teacher would never imagine or could plan for. I taught via distance learning for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, before switching to hybrid learning - teaching half of my class in person and the other half online simultaneously - for the remainder of the school year. Our school began the 2021-2022 school year with in-person learning, full-time, and despite the many challenges of these unprecedented times, we were able to continue the school year with in-person learning full-time.


The following reflects my own personal lessons and thoughts throughout all these teaching experiences and protocols. I am not one to get involved in politics or voice strong opinions related to education via the internet, yet I do want to share my experiences in a humble, mindful, and respectful manner. If you are interested in learning more about how the pandemic affected teachers, students, and our school systems, I invite you to complete your own research and to ask teachers who are STILL in the classroom what their experiences have been like and what they believe education needs during these times.


By sharing these thoughts, my intention is not to come off as complaining, bragging, incompetent or lazy, yet instead I want to bring awareness to those around me and to those willing to listen. I have been fortunate enough to have supportive administrators and coworkers who have all worked together to do all we physically and emotionally can to move forward as educators.


Lessons Learned & Takeaways

*Specifically referring to distance learning


1. Children are resilient! Children aren’t immediately scared or unsure about the world around them. It is not until they experience a fall for the first time or a bigger challenge where they experience doubt or uncertainty. My students had never before experienced distance learning or going to school while living through a pandemic, and therefore at first were excited, positive, optimistic, determined and ready to tackle the new situation.


2. Learning can truly take place under any circumstance, but the right resources and support are a necessity. My school was fairly quick to jump forward and use all the digital tools and resources we had to create online learning platforms for our students over the course of a day. We have also had a tremendous and supportive administrative and faculty, ready to tackle the every-changing aspects of education during these unprecedented times. We are blessed to have had the resources we needed and wanted to make distance learning and returning to the classroom possible. Yet, adequate funding for education and learning resources is without a doubt a necessity in order for ALL children to receive a full education. Additionally, safety comes first and we have yet been able to provide ALL the necessary PPE required for everyone to continue in their roles safely.


3. Relationships are key to building trust and being able to provide adequate support. My students’ mental health and well-being is far more important than making sure they are turning in every single assignment on time with 100% accuracy during a time of crisis. Yet, social-emotional lessons taught in the classroom by educators should not be expected to be a supplement for all the psychological and emotional needs of our students.


4. Always prepare ahead of time so you have a plan, but also plan for lessons to go differently and allow for a flexible mindset. I cannot begin to list all of the times my lesson plans have changed or shifted (or even been scratched out) over the last two years. I do my best to have all of my plans and copies completed - and even submitted - before leaving the classroom on Friday afternoons. Yet, these unprecedented times have proven even with the most detailed, thought-out, prepared plans, I cannot assume a flexible mindset will not be needed for each day. I used to tell myself, take it week by week - then it changed to day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes I have to give myself grace to think and proceed minute by minute.


5. Take time to learn new skills and explore new resources: This is something I should have done more of during our time in distance learning, and even now while being back in person. My mind automatically goes to the online resources and tools I am aware of and comfortable with - and what I know my students are comfortable with - yet I have an opportunity to break out of my box to try new routines and learn new digital skills that could benefit my students more academically.


6. Allow your students to help you and teach you new skills: Even our youngest students have something to teach us and share. My students, being fourth graders, have had the capability of accessing their laptops and computers on their own, checking online assignments, creating study groups on Google Hangouts, and emailing their teacher with their questions. I would even ask my students to check assignments for me on Google Classroom as a way to check assignments were accessible and included all the information needed for a lesson. I will admit it, I probably relied on my students more than I should have to be independent and take their learning into their own hands. However, all in all, my students have learned they are capable of wonderful things, grown in confidence and independence, shined in place, and never, ever have given up on themselves or each other. *


In the Future

*Specifically referring to distance learning


1. Remember: Students’ physical and social emotional well-being needs must be met before they are able to learn and take in knowledge effectively.


2. Efficient digital and distance learning requires the appropriate resources and time to coordinate. *Specific to distance learning


3. Be intentional with every digital resource used - What is its purpose? How will it engage students? What new perspectives could it provide? What computer skills can be learned with this resource? How effective will it be in teaching students a skill? Does it have automatic-grading tools to save time? *


4. School districts and schools themselves are not failing, yet instead lack the necessary funds and resources to effectively support students AND teachers. For more information and for a better understanding, please ask real teachers what they believe is needed.


"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


Blessings,


Morgan Elizabeth

1.16.22

teaching during a pandemic



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My faith in Christ. Being a supportive wife. Educating the hearts and minds of children. These are my callings. I am so excited to share my journey, my inspirations, and my current projects in one place. 

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