By Lauren Templin
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
With all the craziness and uncertainty in the world right now, it is easy to spot the heroes in society. From medical workers to fast-food employees and grocery store workers, it is clear who has been important to society’s everyday life.
But the unsung heroes of the pandemic are school teachers. They teach the future of the world and change and enrich their students’ lives for the better.
When the world is at its everyday "normal," they are trying their hardest to help their students. They are now working to try and find a “new normal” for their students.
Jessica Dubke, a kindergarten teacher at Anne E. Moncure Elementary in Virginia, has shared her experience with teaching elementary remotely.
Dubke said, “Hands-on, real-life experiences, and failures is how you learn.”
As a double-alumnus of Niagara University, Dubke said she couldn’t have gotten her degrees from a better place. Still, she was not prepared to teach during a pandemic. The real test of being prepared has been through real-life experience, and, with the current situation, everyone is learning to be prepared a different way.
The biggest challenge for teachers has been the transition from in-person to online. The unknown of how long this would last and not seeing their students again has been tough for teachers.
Dubke said, “At first it was very stressful. At the beginning, there was a lot unknown. We did not know if we would have to create new learning for online, how we would review already taught materials, how we would plan and how we would reach all of our students.
“It was also very stressful knowing that we would not teach these students in our classroom ever again. We worried how they would continue to practice the skills they had already learned, if they were eating, sleeping, safe, etc. Now that we know what our plan is for the rest of the year and how most of our students are doing, it is less stressful.”
Since no person could have been prepared for what COVID-19 has had in store for the world, it has been difficult for everyone to get a handle on the situation.
Dubke said, “The county I work in did not have a plan at first, but they quickly developed one in about two weeks, then let the principals and teachers know what their plan was moving forward. I do have to say, our county and school is doing an excellent job handling remote learning from home and connecting with teachers and families. I am very impressed.”
While teachers have been transitioning to remote learning and encouraging the participation of students (and their families), educating has not been as much of a problem as it could have been.
Dubke said, “Most of my parents are having their children complete activities and engaging with their teacher. Twenty-one out of 23 families in my classroom have at least contacted me once, and I know for certain are receiving documents for their children to use to practice. Some families are showing me how they are participating, and some are not.
“Even though I would love for every student in my class to be completing these activities we work hard to create and make fun, and for all family members to participate and respond to me, I understand that it is not feasible for every family right now. I understand families have a lot of stress going on due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I will not judge them for not being involved as much as they should be.”
A main concern for teachers, including Dubke, has been checking in on students and making sure they are OK during this difficult situation.
Dubke said, “I talk to my students every day; I invite them to send me messages, pictures, videos (and send the same back). I ensure them that everything will be OK, and that they are working hard, and that I am so proud of them.
“Right now, I honestly just care about their happiness and well-being,” Dubke said. “I invite them to do silly things along with me, listen/watch me read their favorite stories, and to just have some fun right now! I also discuss how, when quarantine is over, and it is safe for us all to be together, we will all meet up for a big celebration.”
Dubke explained teachers are not getting nearly enough credit when it comes to the impact they have on society – and that was true even before the pandemic hit.
Now even more so, teachers are working to make sure their students are getting a proper education.
Dubke said, “I have heard from some families that their eyes are opening up to what teachers do and how hard they work because of this situation. However, some families, community members and society think that teachers are not ‘doing enough’ right now, or do not deserve their pay since they are not in the classroom setting.
“I honestly am working harder and stressing much more now that we are figuring out how to create activities for remote learning, working with colleagues in a new way, and not being with our students than I would be if I were in my normal school setting.”
Dubke added, “I hope when this is all over people will value the teachers who never gave up, never stopped working, and gave their time, emotion and energy to ensure students are as safe, happy, loved, and engaged as possible.”
A simple “Thank you” is going a long way for teachers right now. Google has created a series of doodles thanking workers of the COVID-19. One of the doodles is honoring teachers and child care workers for their work during the pandemic. Teachers are hoping this will be the first of many. To see the doodle, visit https://www.google.com/doodles.
Niagara Frontier Publications works with the Niagara University communication studies department to publish the capstone work of students in CMS 120A-B.
These articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of NFP, NU or the communication studies department. Moreover, efforts have been made to encourage the proper use of sources, and discourage anything that would constitute plagiarism.
Comments or concerns can be sent to the NFP editorial department, care of the managing editor.