education / Teacher-authors

Coping with COVID in the Classroom

A lot of teachers are also authors. In an effort to spotlight their two hats, I feature teacher-authors on both my writing and education blogs. Guests can write about any topic they’d like as long as it revolves around those two skills.

Today, I’d like to introduce Anne Clare, a teacher as well as a historical fiction author. Anne Clare is a native of Minnesota’s cornfields and dairy country. She graduated with a BS in Education in 2005 and set out to teach in the gorgeous green Pacific Northwest, where she and her husband still live. She also serves as a church musician, singing in and occasionally directing choirs, playing piano, organ, and coronet (the last only occasionally, when she forgets how bad she is at it.) After the birth of her second child, she became a stay-at-home mom, and after the birth of the third she became reconciled to the fact that her house would never be clean again, which allowed her to find time to pursue her passion for history and writing while the little people napped. Although she’s back to teaching, she continues to write historical fiction and to blog about WWII history, writing, and other odds and ends at thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com.

I reviewed her amazing book, Where Shall I Flee, last week about the battle in Italy during WWII from the perspective of a female nurse. Today, I’m excited to share her story of teaching through the pandemic. With not only apocryphal but statistical stories about the damage done by the pandemic to student learning, I was eager to read about this event through the eyes of a teacher in the trenches. I think you’ll enjoy this:

Coping with COVID in the Classroom

I’ve always found that teaching is a profession that requires some flexibility. Since March of 2020, “flexibility” doesn’t seem like quite a strong enough word for the mental gymnastics required in maintaining any kind of workable learning environment. All of the teachers I know have their own stories of Covid craziness. Here are a few of mine.

The First Round

As soon as we heard that our state was going into full lockdown, my school’s faculty started looking for online options. I teach in a small “church school” with just over a hundred students. Small size has its own challenges, but when it came to pivoting to a new teaching plan, it allowed us to adapt quite quickly. Over Spring Break we set up Google Classroom pages, learned how to do Zoom, and created packets of papers for students’ families to pick up and drop off outside the school weekly. By the time break was over, we were ready.

Sort of.

Technical difficulties, struggling students, and the stress of a total change of lifestyle made online learning challenging.

Then there were difficulties with the physical space. My husband worked from home in our bedroom while my eldest daughter did her 4th grade work in her room, my son worked on first grade in his, and my youngest wrapped up her Kindergarten year at our kitchen table, occasionally weeping over the ipad when she couldn’t find the correct sheet. Meanwhile, I tried to record lessons in such a way as to keep my students accountable, tried to keep up with online correcting, and tried to be there to assist my children as needed.

While my faculty and I adapted to provide the best learning situation for our students that we could, I didn’t complain when we decided to end the school year early. It made sense—the loss of sports and extra curriculars meant that we finished our curriculum ahead of schedule anyway. Perhaps, after summer, things would return to normal.

The Long Haul

As I approached the 2020-2021 school year, I hoped (as I’m sure many did) that maybe things could go back to normal. They didn’t.

All of the public schools and most of the private ones in our county decided to remain almost entirely online. Looking at our size and the desires of our parents, my school decided to try a different approach.

We divided our student body into two groups so that desks could be adequately spaced. We taught a full gamut of shortened classes to each group, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, cleaning and disinfecting in between.

While it wasn’t an ideal situation, it was such a joy to see my students in person. I’d never fully appreciated the power of being able to explain things face to face until I lost it. For instance, the first time I gave out a vocabulary assignment to my 7th and 8th graders, a student failed. I suspected that she didn’t quite know how to do it, BUT now I was able to stand next to her, to explain and the demonstrate the steps she could take to improve. For the rest of the quarter, she had straight A’s.

My personal life…well, it was still kind of a zoo. My kids did the morning session, then I brought them home, fed them and started them on their homework before dashing back for round two. (Mercifully, I was not teaching a full time schedule, so I had a little more leeway for transportation than some of our other faculty members.) My husband was in the house, but still “at work.” There was more screen time for the kids than I’d prefer, but we made it through!

Moving Toward Normalcy

For the 2021-2022 school year, we decided to come back full time. It has been such a joy to see my students every day, and to have more time to dig into learning. I’ve missed that classroom community—it’s so good to get some of it back!

Full-time hasn’t been without its bumps. This January, after a week of bad weather right after Christmas break that shut everyone down, we tried to come back to school only to discover that we were missing 25% of our student body due to illness. Several students were sick themselves, others had to quarantine due to sick family members. Half of our 7th and 8th graders were out, and with quarantining lasting for at least a week, they’d be missing huge chunks of learning.

The faculty discussed it and decided that the best choice was to go online for a week. With a long weekend in there, we’d have 10 days apart, and, hopefully, most of the illnesses would have run their course by the time we returned.

When I told my children, they cried.

They weren’t the only ones who were unhappy. Parents, students, all of the teachers—none of us wanted to say goodbye again.

Going back to Zoom classes—classes where students were theoretically present, but in reality were often checked out or distracted—was disheartening. We put our heads down, plugged through, and prayed that we could just get back to in person.

So far, so good. At this point, my school has been back in person for more than a month. The weather is getting warmer, and there seems to be more hope for normalcy on the horizon. (I’m trying not to get too hopeful though, in case it’s just a mirage!)

Teaching in a Covid-world classroom has certainly been challenging—and I’m well aware that my experience has not been as challenging as some! However, I’ve seen blessings in it too. I’ve been impressed with the adaptability and commitment I’ve seen in fellow teachers and families. I’ve learned some new technology and teaching strategies. And I’ve been reminded just what a gift it is to see my students’ faces each day.

How to contact Anne

https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com

Anne Clare: Sharing Stories of the Second World War – Home | Facebook

Book links

Where Shall I Flee? https://www.amazon.com/Where-Shall-Flee-Anne-Clare/dp/B09KNGJ2YB/

Whom Shall I Fear? https://www.amazon.com/Whom-Shall-Fear-Anne-Clare-ebook/dp/B07SW443Z3/

If you’re a teacher-author and would like to contribute to this column, reach out to me at askatechteacher@gmail.com. I’d love to host you.

Note: If you follow my education blog, Ask a Tech Teacher, you may have read this post over there.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Spring 2022.

120 thoughts on “Coping with COVID in the Classroom

  1. Thank you for sharing!!… change is the law of life and believe the “old normal” is history and the “new normal” is beginning.. I think Ann Clare did a wonderful job adjusting to change and continue to help the children adjust and gather knowledge and follow their dreams.. “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” (Kahlil Gibran )… 🙂

    I am still going to school here… “ I am currently attending the School of Life, learning more about the universe and me… and Graduation Day will be the day of my funeral and it is then I will know if I failed or I succeeded and graduated”… (Larry “Dutch” Woller)… 🙂

    Until we meet again…
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I think the lockdowns and isolation has been most challenging for kids. They are perhaps missing out on an important part of their growing up years. Hats off to the teachers who are keeping the plates spinning.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s amazing the mental/anxiety illnesses kids are suffering currently in much higher number than ever before. My thoughts go so many different directions on this, so many varied solutions, but who really knows. My kids are grown–yours too? It’s very difficult for parents and kids.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Indeed, Jacqui. No, we don’t have children, so the remote-learning thing was a complexity of COVID we did not have to deal with. But many of our friends have school-age children, and we watched as some adapted instantly to remote-learning while others really struggled. Hard to calculate the toll the last two years have taken on schoolchildren; we may not have a full picture of how this experience has affected them, for good and/or ill, for years to come.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I am only astonished that she mentions faculty several time, while two times saying she teaches 7th – 8th grades. That is middle school, not faculty, which means college/ university! (Signed, a graduate of the Faculty of Management within the Academy of Economic Sciences Bucharest. And yes, here it is a confusion with the term college, so I prefer university for the higher education – BA and MA, because here college might mean either a certain high school better than others around, or 2 years studies after high school, what I guess you would call associate or something, anyway undergraduate degree).

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s very interesting. An excellent example of the confusions inherent in a world audience. I’ll give you another. I’m considered an ‘adjunct professor’ in the grad school classes I teach, but for many, ‘professor’ connotes a PhD, which I don’t have. Nothing is what it seems.

      Liked by 2 people

    • That’s so interesting Marina- it appears that we use the term differently. In every school at which I’ve been a student or teacher, (Kindergarten through twelfth grade) “faculty” has been used to refer to the group of teachers at every level, as opposed to “staff,” such as aides, secretaries etc. For example, we have weekly faculty meetings.
      Now you’ve got me curious- how would you refer to a group of teachers as a whole in an elementary/middle school setting?

      Liked by 2 people

      • And we do not have teachers aides, ever. There are teachers, and principal (we call her school director) and… this is it. I guess, for us principal would be the teacher (grades 5-12, ie middle school and high school) who is in charge of a certain grade (diriginte, the name in original). Mine for middle school (5A-8A) was teaching sport, and mine for high school (9D-12D) was teaching English. The colleagues from C had a Physics teacher as principal. And besides her regular classes of English, there was one class every week really called Dirigenție, where we learnt things useful in society or the problems of children who did not study enough and had bad grades, or who had a lower grade in Behaviour because they did something really wrong in class (broke a window, got into a fight with obvious damage- bruises, glasses broken, etc or those who lived in boarding school left to town without a note of leave) were discussed.

        Liked by 2 people

        • How interesting! The weekly classes to study things useful in society sound helpful.

          We just recently added aides. As our school is so small we have multiple grades per classroom and one teacher teaches every subject for those grades, so the aide helps answer questions for the other class while the teacher is teaching, and does some of the preparation of materials etc. Some of our schools are big enough to have a principle who mainly deals with administration or discipline issues- ours also teaches 7-8th grades.

          Thanks for sharing more details about your teaching experience!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. it is amazing how quickly teachers adapted to the covid environment, much more than other organizations. while it may not have been ideal, it was the best at that point in time.

    I hope you stay in person through the rest of the school year. I think it’s best for he students and teachers, and it’s what the parents want.

    With all of our children grown, and two of them living elsewhere, we never ran into the problems of trying to work around everyone who was at home…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. As a retired teacher, I feel for everyone, from the teachers to the students to the parents. It’s been an impossible situation. It is heartbreaking to learn many are leaving the profession when were already facing a teacher shortage. My other concern has been that underqualified people may be hired as teacher standards lower to avert the crisis.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It is a very tough situation. I’m not sure what the answer is. I have a lot of anger toward some of the participants–to remain unidentified–and a lot of concern for our children. Somehow, it will work because it has to.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it’s been a challenge for everyone, hasn’t it? “Impossible” is the word- there really has been no perfect solution, and certainly no solution that would satisfy everyone. Even in the private sector, we’ve got a huge teacher shortage. Burn-out is a real problem, as well as finding qualified people. It’s certainly made me thankful for all of the faithful colleagues and supportive parents who are keeping on, even though everyone’s thoroughly tired of all of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A good friend of mine is a HS principal, and she has said that the online learning combined with parents working from home has been at times a total circus. Apparently most kids have really lost ground. Educators were definitely unsung heroes throughout the pandemic.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Hi Jacqui, I know that the on-line teaching was dreadful for teachers. It was also tough for parents, who had to try and keep kids motivated, and the children who were sad and depressed by being home all the time and deprived of socialising. I really hope we’ve seen the end of it all now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a difficult time for many… Thankfully, in my previous congregation, I had pulled them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century a few years before the pandemic. Since we were streaming and having worship available on line since 2018, we didn’t miss a beat. Instead of a choir and a congregation, six of us, all distanced, would put on the worship service (preaching, elder/liturgist, organist/piano player, soloist, and two tech people. The Sunday all closed their doors, we continued as normal. Then I was called to the mountains where internet is limited… but we got by. Let’s hope this chapter in our lives is soon in the rearview mirror.

    Liked by 4 people

    • That’s such a blessing, Jeff- to have the tech available before it became essential put you one step ahead of many folks! Our church had done live-streaming for a few years, but this forced us to improve and update some of our tech. We also ended up have worship outside quite a bit, which really was lovely.
      And to your last- here’s hoping!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Now that I have been substitute teaching in Washington State, I’ve really seen firsthand how resilient students are. I can’t say that about the university students I was teaching in F2F classes in early 2020. Several students fell to the wayside and one Korean student was bullied to such a degree that she fled back to Korea to finish the course online! In any case, after two full years in pandemic mode, we all have learned new and varied ways to teach effectively. Great post you’ve shared, Jacqui. This is our first week where students are masks optional in the classroom (teachers too). So lovely to see their shining faces again.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I love that you’ve found positives to focus on. My kids were finishing their college years when the pandemic struck. Their transition to online wasn’t without challenges, but it was not nearly as bad as what young children had to contend with. I hope you’re right and “normal” isn’t a mirage. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Anne.

    Jacqui, thanks for hosting.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Staci! While I can’t claim that I always succeeded in keeping positive, I’ve tried to look for the “wins” in all of this. As to what’s coming, I guess we’ll see! We had our first week without mask mandates last week, and it was so beautiful to see smiles. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for teachers (and students) during the pandemic. Thanks for the introduction to Ann, Jacqui. I pray that the worst is behind us and classes won’t need to return to virtual learning again.

    Liked by 3 people

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  14. Hi Jacqui and Anne – a busy bee for sure … I’ve admired teachers from afar and also having no kids I really can’t imagine all the kerfuffle that Covid has caused students and teachers and parents. I guess being in a small school has helped and thus eased the last couple of years. Thanks for this interesting post – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I certainly felt for the teachers during the lockdowns. It was hard for the students as well but kids can be so resilient and adaptable. One girl I know did better during the lockdown than she had ever done in the classroom. So you never know. Hats off to you Anne for making the most of a tough situation both at work and at home. Not sure I could have juggled both. Years later we will be saying, remember when we had to do online teaching. A great article Anne and Jacqui.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Darlene, that’s an interesting point. I DID have 2 boys who did better with online than in person. Both were ones who tended to be the ‘class clown’ sort of personality, but not having anyone to perform for seemed to help them just buckle down and do the work! One of them has found online school since then, and I’ve heard he’s doing well, which is awesome.
      I also noticed that kids who were either very self-motivated or had parents who made sure they were going to get the job done did alright.
      All the best!

      Liked by 3 people

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