I’ll be honest, in 35 years of teaching, this has been the hardest year so far. And that’s not just because I’m old and kind of worn out. I think this whole Covid thing did way more damage to kids than just their academic abilities. But also, way more damage to teachers’ socio-emotional well being, too!
A year and a half of unsupervised living and no responsibility to live up to any standards has ruined so many kids’ abilities to cope with structure and navigate in a socially productive manner. Distance learners turned off their cameras and microphones and did God knows what for an entire year and a half. They could leave when they wanted, eat when they wanted, go to the bathroom when they wanted, and speak in whatever swear-word-laden way they wanted to whomever they wanted whenever they wanted. They are more addicted to social media than ever. Their phones have become a new appendage. And there were no consequences for any of this.
As teachers weren’t allowed to fail or hold students accountable for their schoolwork. 10 weeks into in-person learning, schools struggle with increased student fighting, depression, and other social-emotional well being related issues. This has caused districts to implement mandatory social-emotional learning courses and interventions to help students re-learn how to navigate positive social interactions. Remember, our seventh graders were last in school at the end of 5th grade. They have lost a year and a half of the social Interactions and the learning that happens during those years.
This isn’t just happening at my school. This is a nationwide issue. But it’s not just the students who are casualties of this period. Teachers are struggling with their own social-emotional matters. This takes a toll on teachers’ energy levels and ability to want to interact with kids. A daily barrage of bad language and berating by students is often directed toward teachers and other adults. Some students just up and walk out of classrooms, talk over lessons, refuse to work, and cry. Staff members risk injury when breaking up students’ daily physical fights.
But it’s not only these in-school issues. Teachers and staff also lost family members and loved ones to Covid. Teachers spent a frustrating amount of time alone trying to teach to blank screens (Try talking to yourself for 5 hours a day for 180 days and see how you feel). And let’s not forget about those teachers who have their young kids at home who are dealing with their emotional wellness. Teachers have Covid-related social-emotional well being issues, too. But I haven’t seen much talk about how to support those who support our kids. Where’s our emotional support? Where do we go when we need to take a break?
Our students have a wellness center where they can go to relax, color, and play with fidget spinners. Teachers need a wellness center, too. Many would just take a mental-wellness day off, but there are not enough substitute teachers to cover classes, and writing substitute lesson plans is more trouble than it is often worth. Not to mention the “fires” to put out when you return. There are all kinds of parent phone calls to make and detentions to mete out as a consequence of sub-induced student bad behavior. It’s hardly a mental break when one worries about what they will return to.
In today’s episode, Sharyn, Jen, and I give the lowdown on the new normal (Oh, please God, don’t let this be normal). It’s a lot of venting (and a lot of swearing, just saying) People must realize that it’s not just the troubled students but the teachers who are trying their best to help their students recover and thrive again. More attention to the welfare of teachers must be given because otherwise, there will be more casualties in the classroom.