Gidgette Fry is a third-grade teacher in the Knappa school district. This is her story in her words of the pandemic of 2020. In a small town on the west coast of the United States of America.
The 2020 Pandemic From a Teacher’s Perspective by Gidgette Fry
My first reaction to hearing the school would be closed for two weeks on March 13 was awesome, a two-week-long spring break. This was immediately followed by how are we going to make this up. The usual reaction from a teacher. Then when I heard that school was closed for
a month and I would need to create a way to provide review materials to a class of 20 with unreliable, if any, internet service. What should this look like, how were we supposed to do this since we were only allowed in the school one day a week for one hour? How am I supposed to plan, get out the curriculum, and copy 20 packets in one hour along with 37 other teachers?
Overwhelmed does not even cover the anxiety I felt. The real fear of the situation, for me, set in when I realized that the administration (my leaders) didn’t have answers for us. I felt rudderless in a very turbulent sea. So, I take things one step at a time. First, I get together with my teacher
partner, we make a plan, we divide the work, we get the packets out. Parents are grateful. I start to feel reassured we can do this even without the internet connection.
Then announcement hits that we are closed until April 27. We start having weekly staff meetings. Now we had to introduce new materials, but we cannot require the students to do the assigned work. We have to grade the packets on pass or incomplete. We have to take attendance! We have to contact all the families twice a week. Every week was a new plan and a new requirement.I am a very structured person, I live on a schedule, I love checklists. But I had no structure, no checklist, very little guidance. How was I going to be able to teach from afar new material especially to students who need a visual aid, extra clarification, to ask questions? How am I going to teach my students and help their parents be teachers (not something most of them have been trained or planned to do)?. How am I going to give guidance when I have none being given to me? Oh and make sure to see to the child and families emotional needs and reassure them they are doing great. But I am not doing great so how can I reassure them.
I started dreading those weekly meetings. Things kept changing as soon as I get my feet under me a wave comes and washes me off my feet again. Just being overwhelmed would be nice right about now. Again I meet via phone with my teaching partner and we divide up the work. We get the packets out, we make videos and post them. We do read
aloud on Facebook, we have meet times with students. We try to connect with each family. We get a routine down. I start to feel like I am building a rutter and can steer my little boat even if the sea is still rough.
Then the biggest wave hits.
Then the biggest wave hits and almost washes me overboard. No school for the rest of the school year. I was devastated. As soon as the staff meeting ended I lost it. I was wailing and sobbing. What do you mean I can’t say goodbye to me, students? I can’t have the last two weeks of fun learning projects, of celebrating all the hard work and growth that my students
accomplished over the year? We can’t have a final end of the year field trip! I let myself have my pity party for about ten minutes.
Then I pulled myself together. Because I have to stay calm, I cannot panic, I have adult sons, grandchildren, my students and their parents looking to me to be the calm in the storm that I am known for. Thank God for my faith. Thank God I have an anchor that helps me tie my fears and anxieties down. Because every day I wake up to parents texting, emailing, chatting, needing me to clarify, remind, listen, relay information, provide guidance and reassurance, explain in more detail. The waves are big but I am still afloat and right now my rutter is in place. Our school leaders are great. They are upfront with the fact that they do not have all the answers. They keep us in the loop and come up with strategies and plans. They tell us we are doing a great job. They tell us we are appreciated. Our efforts are enough and appreciated. Our work is appreciated. And they are sincere about what they say. They connect us with a psychologist who talks with us weekly about how to reassure parents and students and the importance of self care.My self care is in the care of others. So instead of staying home with my feelings of inadequacy and fear that my efforts are not enough, I get on the bus once a week and help pass out lunches, learning packets, and greet every student with a warm cheerful smile. I make it a point to be observant of others’ needs and offer to help them any way I can. I check in with other teachers, friends, and family members. I pick up my guitar and practice, and I try to learn new things.
I will look back on this and be thankful we survived.
Most of all I hope and pray that normal will become normal again. The storm will pass, the sea will become calm, I will be able to guide my little boatback to shore and I will look back on this and be thankful we survived.