I'll be honest, in 35 years of teaching, this has been the hardest year so far. And that's not just because I'm old and kind of worn out. I think this whole Covid thing did way more damage to kids than just their academic abilities. A year and a half of unsupervised living and no responsibility to live up to any standards has ruined so many kids' abilities to cope with structure and navigate in a socially productive manner. Distance learners turned off their cameras and microphones and did God knows what for an entire year and a half. They could leave when they wanted, eat when they wanted, go to the bathroom when they wanted, and speak in whatever swear-word-laden way they wanted to whomever they wanted whenever they wanted. They are more addicted to social media than ever. Their phones have become a new appendage. And there were no consequences for any of this. We weren't allowed to fail students or hold them accountable for their schoolwork.
10 weeks into in-person learning, Schools are struggling with an increase in student fighting, depression, and other social-emotional-related issues. This has caused districts to implement mandatory social-emotional learning courses and interventions to help students re-learn how to navigate positive social interactions. Remember, our seventh graders were last in school at the end of 5th grade. They have lost a year-and-a-half of the social Interactions and the learning that happens through those. This isn't just happening at my school. This is a nationwide issue.
But it's not just the students who are casualties of this period. Teachers are struggling with their social-emotional matters. This is a toll on teachers' energy levels and ability to want to interact with kids. There is a daily barrage of students bad language and berating that is often directed toward teachers and other adults. Some students just up and walk out of classrooms, talk over lessons, refuse to work, break out crying. There are staff members risking injury breaking up students' physical fights daily.
But it's not only these in-school issues. Teachers and staff also lost family members and loved ones to Covid. Teachers spent a frustrating amount of time alone trying to teach to blank screens (Try talking to yourself for 5 hours a day for 180 days and see how you feel). And let's not forget about those teachers who have their young kids at home who are dealing with their emotional wellness. Teachers have Covid related social-emotional issues, too. But I haven't seen much talk about how to support those that support our kids.
Where's our emotional support? Where do we go when we need to take a break? Our students have a wellness center where they can go to relax, color, play with fidget spinners. Teacher's need a wellness center, too. Many would just take a mental-wellness day off, but there are not enough substitute teachers to cover classes, and writing substitute lesson plans is more trouble than it is often worth. Not to mention the clean-up required when you return. There are all kinds of parent phone calls to make and detentions to mete out as a consequence of sub-induced student bad behavior. Hardly a mental break when worried about what they will come back to.
In today's episode, Sharyn, Jen, and I give the lowdown on the new-normal (Oh, please God, don't let this be normal). It's a lot of venting (and a lot of swearing, just saying) People must realize that it's not just the students that are troubled, but the teachers who are trying their best to help their students recover and thrive again. More attention to the welfare of teachers must be given because otherwise there will be more casualties in the classroom.
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