How Educators are Overcoming the Pandemic

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On a normal day, teaching (while rewarding) is an exhausting and at times, thankless job. Add a pandemic to that, and we’re over here wondering how teachers are still getting up every single day to educate our children.

Added to the fatigue of the job, teachers now work from home in front of their laptops, chart paper taped to the refrigerator behind them, their families asking for time and attention. The point of this piece is to help others understand where legislators, community members, and even families may have misunderstood teachers’ work and how we can better support them.

Do you ever wonder how a student is struggling to meet his or her assignments? Teachers do, and they love to help them!

In order to have a better comprehension, let’s start reviewing some insights about victories, frustrations, and strategies from teachers from preschool to college:

“I am attempting to keep my middle school art students curious by being completely vulnerable with them. I cry in front of them when I’m sad or scared or frustrated. I’m transparent with them about my feelings and experiences. This encourages them to be more vulnerable and open with me and each other, which prompts us to talk openly about our challenges and struggles and then figure out together how to handle them. Meg Winnecour, a middle school teacher at Hanger Hall School for Girls, Asheville, N.C.

I am trying to encourage students to go outside and take notice of the nature that surrounds them. This can be on a large or small scale, a piece of moss, a line of ants, or their favorite spot in the woods. The assignment simply boils down to go outside, slow down, and take notice of your surroundings. William J. Gunther, eighth grade, Valley Central Middle School in Montgomery, N.Y.

I make my online classes available 10 minutes before the official start of class. This time allows students to log in early and casually interact with me and their classmates. As students enter the online classroom, conversations are already happening. Even the chatbox begins filling with call-and-response messages (or a roll call of the latest round of test results). It helps create the atmosphere of an in-person classroom. When it doubt, dial it up to an 11. Better to be unhinged than boring. Collin Bailey Jonkman, a college professor at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Mich.

My second graders went outside as “Nature Detectives” with plastic magnifying glasses and explored their yards for 20 minutes. They came back inside to our Zoom meeting to share the treasures of nature they found — colored leaves, seeds, grass blades, feathers, small stones, small plants with roots still attached, flower petals, acorns, pine cones, and seed pods. Laura Avolio, second grade, Orchard View Elementary School, Grand Rapids, Mich.

One of the ways I’m bringing that out is the use of virtual backgrounds for the kids. Rather than it being a distraction, having a daily challenge for a cool background is allowing kids to bring their creativity to the classroom. Each week, I give a super open-ended theme and then the kids get to show up with their cool backgrounds. Also, I spend about 10 minutes at the beginning of the class with a home scavenger hunt. Everything is very open-ended, so nobody has to feel bad about not having that exact object. “Find something that you could use to …” and the choices are “fix a robot satellite,” etc. It’s 10 minutes out of their day that enables them to be creative and they’re much more willing to engage in class after that. Loriann Schmidt, a middle school and high school teacher at Village Home Education Resource Center, Beaverton, Ore.

Source of information: New York Times

With the above testimonials, we can begin to talk about the intense emotions felt by many teachers when it comes to the care they have for their students. Emotion, described by Koestler (1967) as, “mental states accompanied by intense feeling and (which involve) bodily changes of a widespread character” (p. 835) is a strong facet of teacher education literature. Keck (2019) described a reflective teacher as one who is “vulnerable and motivated by forces not entirely conscious or rational” Teaching on any day can be difficult and involves all of the teachers—their physical body, mind, and heart (Nias, 1996).

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The Background

It is inspiring how people all over the globe took the best out of themselves to overcome the current pandemic situation.

This includes professionals from different industries and sectors – and educators are not the exception.

Of course, this hasn’t been an easy job for educators; a survey conducted by Instituto Península revealed that 83% of teachers do not feel prepared to perform remotely, 67% felt unrest, 38% feel tired and only less than 10% is really enjoying the transition.

Why is this?

One reason is the resistance to change, and who hasn’t felt afraid of change once in their life?

No need to mention the imminent risk of getting the disease or losing someone beloved.

Despite all of these threats, educators are adapting to the fast-paced environment that is demanding solutions and tons of constant creativity.

Panic is perfectly understandable, but educators know that the show must go on…

First steps

Once the fear is acknowledged, the next step can be taken.

Educators can hardly risk indulging in a mistake, but this time most of them are starting from scratch, and even when they are making a huge effort to meet the expectations, not everything can be perfect.

Within a digital world where basically the students are far ahead in speaking about technology and digital tools, educators had to adapt and come up with new ideas of learning and teaching.

One of the first steps taken by the education sector was to digitize schools immediately, which led both teachers and students to experience new ways to communicate, to study, to learn, to teach, and eventually to overcome the boundaries and obstacles imposed by the digital world.

The challenge

It is not a secret that not all students around the globe have access to the internet and consequently to the digital tools that facilitate their studies and learning processes.

And of course, this varies a lot depending on the country in question, 

For example: (Internet access per country)

Mexico: 65% 

USA: 87%

Brazil: 67%

Canada: 91%

Nigeria: 42%

Perú: 52%

Guatemala: 65% 

Chile: 82%

Australia: 86%

España: 86%

We can notice there is a huge gap between the countries, and especially speaking about Latinamerica.

We also have to keep in mind that some students suffer from learning disabilities, economic hardship, or unstable home environments.

Additionally, it is natural that an important number of educators went through personal, emotional, and financial issues, just to mention a few.

But even with all of these issues in front, educators have kept an enthusiastic spirit and face the challenge by adapting to the current circumstances and taking advantage of the available tools.

The purpose 

Educators understand the importance of their participation as mentors and role models to help and build confidence and resilience in students.

Successful educators know quite well how to engage and make students participate and collaborate together in activities that boost and fill their brain needs with oxytocin, serotonin, and healthy neurotransmitters to counteract stress and traumas.

Even when distance seemed to be the main obstacle, educators managed to create a friendly atmosphere and encouraged their students to keep moving forward with their studies and goals.

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What educators say

Norman, Oklahoma – Kara Stoltenberg 

“I am relieved that we started the school year virtually. It’s been a whirlwind  and everyone is being asked to do more than they do in a day, so I’m just trying to be patient and offer solutions when I can come up with them

My colleagues and I have been stressed since spring break because we care, and we are worried, and we know the ins and outs of our jobs, and we know that what the CDC is recommending for in-person learning just is not really feasible, considering the lack of funding that we’ve had for a decade. 

I’m not an online teacher. I’ve not been trained to do any of this, and I don’t want my students to be at a loss because I am in uncharted territory. I just hope people know that we are trying our absolute best, and it’s hard to make a decision that pleases everyone. It just feels like an impossible situation.”

Flint, Michigan – Jessyca Mathews 

“This whole situation is a reflection of all the things that were wrong with education before COVID hit. Everyone knows equity is a huge problem. Everyone in education knew that the lack of technology was a problem. The large number of students who did not have the tools to do any kind of learning at home was already tremendous. You’re already leaving them behind. Some schools have everything they need to do everything, and they’re majority-white and they’re middle-class schools. Everyone else is sitting back, going, ‘We’ve never had what we needed. But now we’re supposed to just make it work in the middle of a pandemic?’ The pandemic exposed all of those things.”

Wilmer Texas – Shontee Branton 

“I feel most children learn better when they’re in the classroom, where we can do more exploring. I know the benefits of them socially interacting with their peers and learning from their peers. I just want leaders to do what’s best for the children. At the end of the day, I’m one person and there are millions of children out there who need to be educated.

We see different people hosting meetings virtually, and then they’re telling us, ‘Just send the kids to school.’ We want them to be safe. We’re going to have to work regardless, whether it’s virtually or at school. Teaching virtually was a lot more work than actually teaching in class. But we want what’s best for the kids.”

Tacoma, Washington – Grant Ruby 

“A lot of high school kids don’t like math. And one of the ways that I convince them just to show up to class is by being the goofy teacher who cares about them. It’s going to be a lot harder to be that person on a computer screen when I don’t have that opportunity to have those one-on-one conversations or even stand at my classroom door and welcome every student into the classroom.” 

Source of information: “Time Magazine by Katie Reilly”

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The tools

Remote and hybrid teaching and learning are now an extension of the digital classroom but, is this really enough to captivate students and make them feel as comfortable as they were in the classroom? 

Nowadays educators can count on different tools to help themselves and students to make classes as entertained and comfortable as they used to be.

It is a fact that virtual learning tools are transforming the way educators teach. Not only for the ease of helping to create school plans but also to facilitate communication and social interaction for teachers and students.

And even though these tools can be used by anyone, their main purpose is to help educators and professionals to enhance their workspaces and relieve the stress of working remotely.

There is a mix of platforms and online learning programs. 

For instance, Google Classroom, Zoom, and even Apps like Duolingo increased their usage up to 10000% during the pandemic.

This means that a huge amount of people around the globe have used these kinds of tools and educators were an important percentage involved.

Types of learning tools

We can not say all virtual learning tools are made for the same purposes, and this is a good thing actually!

Each tool is used in different ways and circumstances, some handle better communication, some increase students’ cognition through gaming and creativity development.

There are four main types of virtual learning tools:

Communication: this includes email platforms, discussion boards, chats, classroom websites, and video conferencing like Zoom and Google

Learning Management Systems (LMS): These are software applications designed to create interesting and attractive online classes. They help manage the course content and keep track of students’ performance. 

LMS is a cost-effective and reliable way to teach students no matter the class size. 

Digital Learning games: Not only do kids love games, thus this is an original and funny way to get students engaged with their school goals and support their love for learning.

There are some great platforms where your students can keep improving their knowledge and love for education like National Geographic Kids, Funbrain, and Prodigy Math Game 

Online Learning Resources: There are plenty of platforms that support teachers from many years ago, some of these resources have been really useful during this pandemic, some good examples are Sesame Street and PBS Kids.

Regardless of which tool you choose to use, we can assure you will feel supported and happy to have an extra hand during this pandemic. 

Oh, and there is goodness in them, most of them can easily integrate to the others. 

AND, yes, here we shared some examples:

20 tools to accelerate the virtual learning process

How to keep overcoming the challenges of the pandemic 

With the recent vaccine’s arrival, teachers are at the frontline of the classroom with the commission of preventing students from getting the disease. Not least important is the fact that all students and educators are going through a huge change of routines and that they need more and better tools and support from the government and parents.

It is crucial to keep up-to-date and keep improving the current remote and hybrid models of learning and teaching, especially when we are living fast-paced technological changes.

In recent times, we have witnessed how fast the world can change and demand immediate solutions. 

This is a friendly reminder to spread consciousness around the world and in this case, stress the education sector.

Educators play a key role in this purpose, but we cannot take for granted that things will improve and change overnight. 

It takes time to adapt and overcome any tough situation, but good habits and healthy routines work for all parties: parents, students, and educators. 

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Are you a student or educator?

Tell us about your experience during this pandemic and how have you handled overcoming these times. Send us an email here. We’d love to hear from you.

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