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Teachers Respond to the Challenge of a Lifetime: Teaching During Covid

Teachers Respond to the Challenge of a Lifetime: Teaching During Covid

We know the number one influence on student success is the classroom teacher.

In a world turned upside down, we asked five teachers for their thoughts on the school year so far. These teachers, one each from elementary in-person and remote, Ecker Hill Middle, Treasure Mountain Jr High, and PCHS, had insights ranging from joyful to exhaustion to surprise. Frankly, we can’t thank them enough. (Note - questions were answered at the end of September.)

Melissa Perry, Math, Park City High

What’s Good?

  • A very high majority of my students are wearing their masks properly. I do not have to remind students to wear their masks like I would to put away their cell phones. I am so relieved that students are respectful for their own health as well as everyone else’s health.  

  • The administration at Park City High School acted quickly and professionally during the first confirmed case.  They were able to contact trace and quarantine over 20 students within an hour and alert their families. It made me feel confident in our system that administrators came to me directly when I had my first student test positive for Covid-19.  

What’s Challenging?  

  • There is a lot of time devoted to creating a robust canvas page for remote learners and quarantined learners. I consider my technology skills to be above average, but I am still struggling with making learning opportunities equitable.  My students in the classroom still need me to walk around, help them find their mistakes, and re-teach certain parts of the lesson, but so do the remote learners. I still need my prep to get ready for my in person students as well as my remote students, create content videos, update grades, contact parents of struggling students, respond to emails, and make copies. As a district we need to find a solution to this challenge as soon as possible. (Note - the district is looking at early release on Friday as well as continuing Monday early release to help with this issue.)

 What’s unexpected?

  • I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I realized students and teachers would be masked all day. It turns out that we are all being resilient. We are all human and like to take our masks off at the end of the day, but we realize how lucky we are to be in a community where masks are being used to protect our schools, but also our community outside of school. 

 

Larissa Fomuke, 8th Grade English, Treasure Mountain Jr High

What's good?  

  • It feels amazing to be back and interact with the students live.  I missed ‘in the moment moments’ that you just cannot get via zoom.  I am such an extrovert and truly get energized by being around others.  

What's challenging?  

  • It is hard having strict seating arrangements.  I am so used to things like flexible seating and group work that I really had to rethink a lot of what I do daily.

What's unexpected?  

  • I actually love most of the rules!  For example, hand sanitizing before they enter class and cleaning desks before they leave is just an awesome cleanliness habit.  Also, the mask breaks we take to walk around the building are a well-needed pause in the long periods and the students need to stretch their legs during the day.  Lastly, the no lockers and one-way hallways really free up the passing times and create a calmer atmosphere.  


Liz Thompson, 7th Grade Language Arts, Ecker Hill Middle School 

What's good?  

  • I love being with the kids & my colleagues again.  There is so much energy & collaboration that happens when you experience things together that doesn’t happen through a computer screen. 

  • I’m so proud of our kiddos.  School with all the limitations of Covid can be really hard.  I feel like they have in many ways stepped up to the challenge. 

What's challenging?  

  • Teaching using PPE...hard to hear each other, we all forget to drink water, we all get hot, I can’t tell who said what, etc... 

  • Covid mitigation...which is trial & error at times no matter how much you have planned...

  • Contact tracing & seating charts...it is stressful & time consuming.

  • Not being able to have flexible seating or unique classroom furniture.

  • Social distancing is really hard with 12 & 13 year olds. 6 feet apart is not always happening because it is not possible due to my class sizes & desks.  

  • Kids not having lockers and me not being able to really observe their interactions and energy in the halls anymore :-(

  • Best teaching practices are hard to do with Covid mitigation.  My husband referred to our classrooms as “bringing back the 1950s” which is kind of true.   

  • Not being able to see my kiddos’ faces because of masks.  I didn’t realize how much I depend on facial expressions in my teaching and building rapport.

What's unexpected?  

  • How fun teaching lessons outside can be.  I’ve revised lessons to be done outside which gives my kiddos more freedom and a mask break.  I’ve questioned why I didn’t do more outside before Covid.  It can be awesome.

  • I’m surprised that even with all the limitations covid has caused, my current students say “hands down” they prefer being in school than being virtual ;-) 

  • Lasting 6+ weeks for in-person.  Knock on wood.  I’m proud of everyone in our community for that one.

 

Melissa Bott, Elementary in-person 2nd grade teacher Parley’s Park

What's good? 

  • The best part of any school year is seeing the students. It has been great to make connections with each one of them in person. I crave their crinkled eyes (indicating a smile under their mask). They are eager to learn and excited to be back. 

  • The parent support has been amazing. Each day I am blessed with a 'What can I help you with?,' 'Is there anything I can do or get for you?" or just a simple thank you. The parent's encouragement and student interactions are what keeps me striving to be the best teacher I can be. 

  • Every other personnel who is not a classroom teacher has truly upped their game to support the classroom teachers. Between the technology department (Mrs. Hebert the technology goddess), to our specialists and admin team, we are lucky to have such a supportive family focusing on what is best for our students.

 

What's challenging? 

  • Our new normal is challenging. We are losing academic time scrubbing down our classrooms and bodies while maintaining social distancing in and out of the classroom. Would I change it for the alternative? Definitely not! Our focus first and foremost is keeping the students safe and healthy both physically and emotionally. Our counselors, psychologists, behavior specialists, nurses, and so many more work tirelessly keeping us updated on best practices for the students and for us as faculty as well. 

What's unexpected? 

  • In all honesty, I don't think anything has been unexpected. The district has set clear expectations and provided training that we needed to start the school year. As a parent in this district, I enjoy getting updates from the teachers and principals as well. They've done an amazing job communicating via video or email and I'm very appreciative. 

Is there anything else that you would like to share with PCEF and our community? 

  • Thank you for all that you do. There are so many needs during this time of uncertainty and you've risen to the challenge. 

 

Shelby Cornett, Elementary Remote

What's good? 

  • It's always good to be back with the kiddos. :) I think we've all benefited from establishing a remote community from the start and maintaining routines similar to the school day that's familiar to them. Parents have responded positively to the more synchronized schedules and uniform delivery systems. I'm also a tech geek, so I've had a lot of fun exploring Seesaw and other resources to round out the remote experience. 

What's challenging? 

  • Trying to incorporate best practices in the remote setting can be a struggle with younger students. I'm constantly trying to find a balance of utilizing technology effectively without overwhelming. Supplies have been slow to come in, so everything has been online; therefore, live meets have limitations with student involvement. 

  • Another challenge would be accurately assessing the student's ability, since the majority of them have support during their lessons. And last but not least, technology always poses a challenge. I've had days with google drive down, days without internet, and days where I couldn't stay connected to Zoom, but the kids are champs and we always find a work around. 

What's unexpected? 

  • There are so many moments occurring that are unexpected! Some wonderfully surprising and others not so much. It keeps things interesting. 

Is there anything else that you would like to share with PCEF and our community? 

  • Being completely honest, remote learning had a rough start. The first two weeks were the most exhausting weeks of my entire teaching career. However, I enjoy a challenge, and remote learning allows for innovation that can't always be obtained in the classroom. It's exciting to find new and effective ways to not only teach and learn but to create a community. I am appreciative to everyone involved in making this remote experience a success. 

Take a look at Shelby's teacher page Week At A Glance

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