Teaching Through the Pandemic – An Introduction

Editor’s Note – In the coming months, we’re going to feature your stories of teaching in the pandemic. We want to help the rest of the world understand your experience of the pandemic as teachers, we want you to feel the camaraderie from your community as they chime in with “me, too!” and, for those who share their stories here or elsewhere, we want you to have the catharsis of writing out the words. I know as I wrote my own submission for this series, my body relived the most stressful days and I felt my heart pound and my blood pressure rise. I had a good cry when I typed “the end” and I let the relief envelop me. Your story needs to be heard. And you need to tell it.  If you’d like to contribute your version of “Teaching in the Pandemic,” let us know on our contributor page (we offer a small stipend) and we’ll be in touch. 

Our first offering is from Tatiana Grogan. You’ll hear more from her this month, but her first post is a testament to the grit and commitment of those of you who are stepping back into the classroom this week (whether virtually or in-person) and it sets the stage for why we need to start telling these stories.

hand-drawn woman carrying a boulder listing teacher concerns

Prior to writing this piece, many different thoughts and emotions floated around my head as to how I should start. Should I open with a joke? A statistic? Reference to pop culture or a meme? Remind educators to practice “self-care”? (As that horse hasn’t been beaten to death and weaponized against us enough in the last 20 months.) Recently, self-deprecating humor and martyrdom seem to run rampant in the social media presence of our profession. We are all suffering, in some way. Many of us have found a way to find joy in certain aspects of our jobs, but seem to have lost the passion for teaching or are just going through the motions hoping it’ll get better tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. Some of us couldn’t take it anymore and left, with the full understanding and support of teachers in the trenches. But I keep teaching.

teacher school supplies including masks and hand sanitizer in a row

Quick recap: 

  • Season 1 – Educators were praised as we moved classrooms online in a matter of days, our love for our students never faltering. It was clunky at first, but we made it work with little to no resources and support, (reasons why teachers would survive the apocalypse). Many jumped on the Bitmoji classroom trend and we were happy that version history exists on Google Classroom. It was an unprecedented (shudder), but happier time.
  • Season 2a – Educators were badgered for not doing enough, as we stayed online and were made to feel bad about teaching remotely in an effort to keep our communities safe. We logged on every day teaching to silent, black boxes. Admin tried to keep “business as usual,” while teacher well-being was put on the back burner.
  • Season 2b – Many educators moved back to in-person learning to a litany of social-emotional issues and growing pains as students needed reminders on how to be in school. Guest appearances by “quaranteams” were made and contact tracing became a common term. It wasn’t the best, but we did the best we could do with what we had.

crumpled mask in dirty

Now, we are in Season 3 – For the millions of staff and students in the buildings. COVID protocols are relaxed or strict, depending on the day or who you ask. Educators’ plates are endlessly piled high providing for our students’ academic, mental, social-emotional, and physical needs. Parents and administration are concerned about the COVID learning slide, putting pressure on teachers to fit one and a half years of schooling into one academic year. Keep in mind this achievement gap is widened for black and brown students. I put my head down and I keep teaching.

The concept of the “door principle” has been around in teaching for a long time. It did not have a name until December 2020 when Redditor eaglesnation11 answered the question “for those asking if we [teachers] actually like our jobs.” The idea is quite simple, educators love everything that goes on inside the classroom door: building a classroom family, supporting scholars, and creating and learning together. On the other hand, the demands outside the classroom door are what educators dread and lead to frustration and burnout: pressure and lack of accountability from parents, added responsibilities with minimal support from administration, and empty promises from politicians that the education system will get better. Yet, I keep teaching.

Based on interactions with peers here and elsewhere, the door principle has been exacerbated and the existential dread may be leaking inside our learning environments. Educators have adapted and found ways to love teaching in the 2021 school year. We have learned to continue instilling the joy of learning and curiosity, despite the mask and social distancing protocols. Our children feel our warmth and support, even though they only see half our faces. Outside the classroom, the number of demands and pressures are increasing and adding to our cups which already runneth over. But I keep teaching.

masked student wearing backpack with arms crossed in front of chalkboard full of math questions

As a 3rd grade teacher, I am concurrently teaching basic addition to a handful of students, and grade-level content to others. I am teaching students letter and sound recognition, and how to find the main idea. We are all practicing improving our handwriting, capitalization, and punctuation. We are used to differentiating for our students, but typically we have human support for these interventions. Almost daily, our interventionists are being pulled to cover classes. The ones that aren’t subbing are given to the grades with the highest needs. Still, I keep teaching.

I keep teaching. I teach for the little girl in my class whose only stable thing in her life is school because it’s where she’s fed and supported. I teach for my readers who so desperately want to know how to read but need to learn decodable words first and break down when their brain can’t blend the sounds. I teach for my little man who spent all distance learning increasing his math fluency and always wants more. I teach for the girl who hasn’t quite adjusted back to school, but who has the drive to succeed. I teach to improve the lives of the scholars who walk through my door. Despite society, other teachers, our government, parents, and so many others telling us we’re failing. I keep teaching. It is my own small act of rebellion against the myriad of voices who cry out that I am “not enough.” But I am still here. And I am still teaching. And I believe that my offering will be enough. 

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  1. Cassie McLain on January 7, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    Love this!

  2. […] our Teaching Through the Pandemic series with Tatiana Grogan’s “Day in the […]

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