School counselor Brittany Powe-Inge provides a raw depiction of her experience teaching through the pandemic.
I can still remember the day we were called into the Principal’s office. No one likes that feeling right? We were notified that we had a couple of days to prepare our students for Virtual Learning….It was scary and nerve-wracking. My mind immediately went to worrying about the students who would be home without the daily meals from school; support from a smiling teacher or counselor, and all other unimaginable things that could occur with no real eyes on certain students.
Once things settled and we were able to log in virtually, I was ecstatic to see those eager, ready-to-learn faces as we navigated through online learning etiquette, relaxation techniques, and creative ways to still be active while at home. If you would have told me back in 2017 when I began my School Counseling Journey that I would be counseling students virtually, through a computer, I would have not believed you. NO WAY! But every afternoon, during the 30 minutes that I was allotted per class, I logged in and did the best I could (despite my own uncertainty) to ease the worry and stress that my 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11-year-old students were experiencing.
The Lost Students
My spirit was always uneasy because during the morning and early afternoon hours, I was working with teachers and administrators to try to “locate” the couple hundred students that weren’t logging in. We had no clue where they were or what they needed. And for me, I was not handling it well at all! I try to be optimistic in all situations but I genuinely worried alot about many of my school babies. I just simply needed to lay eyes on them, to make sure they were okay. Because I knew for many, there was a strong possibility that they were struggling.
Pandemic Mom Guilt
On top of being an educator during the pandemic, I was also a Mom. I had 2 little ones in elementary school as well. So I had to balance helping my own kiddos to learn as well as my babies at school. It was not easy and I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with anxiety… and that brought on the guilt… because I am the counselor, I am supposed to be okay! I am supposed to know how to deal with this, Right?! And the truth was, I did not. I worried about my aging mother with pre-existing conditions and my kids and myself and my spouse… all of that coupled with the stress of teaching in a pandemic… some days I did not know if I would be okay. But I didn’t give up. I utilized those skills I had in my toolbox and I took breaks when needed, reached out for support from my loved ones and other professionals, and somehow, we made it through!!!
Challenges (and Gains) Ahead
Upon returning to school face to face, my biggest obstacle has been helping students deal with grief. If I had to pick one issue that was referred to the most, it would be grief. Almost every child at my school was affected, in some way, by Covid. Some students and teachers were reaching out due to the sadness of losing a loved one. I had parents calling me asking what they could do or asking for recommendations on how to talk to their babies. I had to develop small groups to allow me to be able to see more children at one time and to let them know that they were not alone.
Some students had totally forgotten what was expected of them in the classroom. As the counselor, I worked closely with my teachers to develop programs and lessons to remind them of what was expected. You could immediately see that for some students, the journey of getting “caught up” was going to be a struggle.
On a more positive note, if I had to identify one positive gain of teaching through the pandemic, it would be that many of our students became very tech-savvy. They are able to do so much more online than we could have imagined and that makes me happy because technology and education go hand in hand! I think we have a long road ahead, but one thing I know about children, they are resilient!! They are eager to learn and they want to make us proud. As a counselor, the journey back to normalcy has not been easy but I know with educators who care, the sky is the limit!
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