HARTFORD, Conn — This pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. From simple tasks to how we work, how we play, how we learn, and how we teach. When schools across Connecticut shut down in early spring, teachers had to quickly adapt to remote classrooms and the challenge that it brought.
Jamie Roderick is a Senior Capstone and Spanish teacher at CREC Civic Leadership High School in Enfield. She says it was important for her to maintain a sense of normalcy for herself, as well as her students when classes became remote only.
“I still showed up every day and I made sure that I looked just as I would look in the classroom and presented the lesson as best as I could but it was really tough to engage. It was a lot of lecturing, which in this day and age, we found and what we’re trained to do as educators is to NOT have lecture-style lessons. To make engaging, student-led, collaborative group work, that was impossible” she said.
Dan Wostbrook, a science teacher at Sheehan High School in Wallingford describes a similar feeling.
“I became a teacher to develop positive relationships. I wanted to impact students. Something outside of just the curriculum and I think that building those connections has been very challenging ” he said.
The summer months were willed with uncertainty about the fall. Would schools reopen? Would students go back to in-person learning? Would it be safe?
In late summer, schools did reopen. Many offering both in-person and remote learning options, along with hybrid schedules to reduce class size. Once again, teachers found themselves overcoming new hurdles.
“I like to be in the crowd with my students. For me to just teach up here and then go out to the desk .. that’s been incredibly difficult. It makes me a little anxious because I’m like am I doing the right thing? Am I spending enough time with the ZOOM roomers?“ said Roderick.
Returning to the classroom only reinforced that there is no substitute for in-person learning.
“Our system’s designed to be in person and the in-person part that I think students are missing the most right now is that collaborative piece. Learning from each other, being able to build off of what others say in real time ” said Wostbrook.
Through this difficult time, both Roderick and Wostbrook said they feel tremendous support behind them. Support from administrators, parents and their students. With that support, a sense that despite the hardship, they’re succeeding.
“Coming back has actually been a wonderful experience. I talk to a lot of my friends and family asking how are you doing with this undertone of worry and concern and I’m honestly having one of the best years of teaching” said Roderick.
Sara Fulton, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, says she’s impressed with how teachers have adapted to new demands, new limitations and new technology.
“If you go in and look at some of the google classrooms and how the assignments are played out.. its encompassing all of the material and that kids should be getting,” said Fulton.
“I think it’s really impressive that teachers continue to keep the social, emotional, behavioral goals and objectives of students at the forefront while simultaneously maintaining their academic objectives ” she added.
Teachers are sharing lessons they’ve learned through this experience.
“We have to remember that everybody is going through this together and supporting people with positivity is really where we need to be as a community,” said Wostbrook.
For Roderick, she hopes her students grow to become smarter and kinder people.
“At the end of the day, I want them to say that I was a teacher who was kind. Someone who taught them about kindness. Throughout this whole pandemic, this is the thing that has kept us all going. That human connection and being kind to one another. I just don’t think that’s talked about enough in the news” said Roderick.