Jacquelyn Randle shares an educator’s take on the pandemic.
As early as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Seeing my mother and aunts in the classroom, along with my Barbie teacher playset, was an added push to aspire to be in the education field. As soon as I heard about the early education tech program for high schoolers, I knew that was my way into the field. I eventually graduated with my CDA and continued my education while working in the classroom, soon acquiring my BA in Early Education. I finally had my dream job and truly loved what I was doing for over 15 years, that is until the pandemic hit.
As we went into work-from-home status, we remained optimistic about the infection count going down and the overall general public caring about staff and students. We focused on pivoting to e-learning in a week, still providing wraparound services such as food and clothing to families, and going well above and beyond to stay connected to our students we served. We sat on pins and needles over summer break, awaiting each district’s plan to be announced, only to see that the parents that once sang our praises call us selfish for wanting to stay virtual to keep everyone-our families included- safe. We read the comment sections, saw the protest calling for us to be in person, and dissected the studies about the spread in schools that remained open in other states and countries.
Eventually, we had to make our final decision on what was best for our families and us. Some of us chose to retire early and switch fields to something that would allow us to stay home. Some chose to go back into the classroom and pray for the best. Choosing to take a gap year due to my family containing elders and immune-compromised individuals, I simply could not risk the chance of contracting and spreading COVID to my family. I dealt with the guilt that came with not being with my students and fellow teachers. I dealt with the grief of possibly leaving the field forever. I dealt with the stress of all the “what ifs” of the unknown and starting over. But I also basked in the peace that came with knowing my family was safe.
I went into the school year with my children knowing that I was just a parent this year, and I was ok with that. I saw the administration team and my daughter’s teachers do their best to constantly pivot and deal with technology issues and hostile parents. And even though they smiled on the outside and pushed through the virtual day and changes, you could sense the stress they felt and couldn’t imagine the dumpster fire that was going on behind the scenes. So, where do we go from here? As a former educator and parent, below, I outline a few things we can all do to get through the rest of the school year (I’ve done all of this).
1. Extend Grace. This is all uncharted waters, and teaching staff are doing their best to educate students while being safe. Know that some things are simply out of their hands due to how the school chain of command is set up, so they are trying to make it work this year.
2. Work Together. Teamwork really does make the dream work. Reach out to staff to see if they need any help in general. Join or attend the PTO meetings, parent action committees, or district meetings.
3.The little things do count. We may have only given presents during Christmas or Teacher Appreciation Week, but a random gift here or there never hurt. It can be as small as hand sanitizer for the room or a can of sanitizer wipes or a simple card showing support. Trust me; it will be appreciated.
4.Trust the science, though it can be frustrating and hard to keep up. Vet your sources you are using to get information from and use this to guide your decision about staying away or going back into the classroom. It’s everchanging as for rates and numbers, but moving off the research will be our best outcome.
We are in the midst of the holiday season and weeks away from some districts reanalyzing the data and making a choice to go back in person or stay virtual for the second half of the school year. Numbers are still on the rise, and as optimistic as we may be, things don’t look too hot. Whichever way your district decides, keep these things in mind as the year progresses but most importantly, stay safe and extend grace. Teachers have always been the superheroes to society’s overlooked issues, and this year is no different.
Jacquelyn Randle is an author born and raised in the St. Louis area, with her first publication at the age of 15. With an extensive background in education and community outreach, she provides viewers with a refreshing take on today’s world and events. Not only does she give audiences a new voice to listen to but provides a level of transparency that hasn’t been seen in years. “If my story and work can inspire just one person to reflect and to grow in their own life, then I can change the world.” Wearing many hats she is also the lead editor and consultant at C & E Reflections Inc. and helps other aspiring authors get their narratives on the page and published. Follow her on social media: [email protected] and [email protected]_reflectionsinc.