xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Educator: Teaching from home looked ideal pre-pandemic, not so much anymore | COMMENTARY

Before quarantine life and the pandemic, teaching from home was always this pipe dream that we teachers liked to envision. I teach Spanish to mostly 11th graders at Green Street Academy, and on particularly challenging days, our team meetings would be filled with lofty dreams about teaching from our living rooms.

To some extent, those dreams came true this spring. My ties and chinos collected dust as my new school uniform became sweatpants and a school T-shirt. My to-go coffee cups were swapped for campfire mugs of fresh, hot coffee. I deleted my 6 a.m. school alarm and substituted it for an 8:30 a.m. snoozefest.

Advertisement

However, what I didn’t expect, what none of us saw coming, was that teaching from home was in fact filled with more anxiety and more stress than being at school every day.

My principal likes to say that teachers are superheroes and that we should all be wearing capes. We signed up for one of the more stressful jobs, and we are expected to show up and exude inspiration and happiness every day. Every minute of my day as a teacher is scripted as I glide from my warm-up to my lesson to the practice. Overcoming obstacles is an expectation, not an exception. Falling behind or not going the extra mile is unacceptable. Superheroes are similar in these ways — failing is not an option.

Advertisement

But Clark Kent has a fortress of solitude where he can recharge and reconnect with himself. Batman has a multi-million-dollar mansion that he can hide in to escape the stress and prepare for the next challenge. Yet when my home became my classroom, the stress and the anxiety came with it. My home was no longer my refuge where I could take off my cape. I was wearing my cape all day along with the frustration of incomplete assignments, the concern about student well-being and my effectiveness, and worry over students who had not yet shown up. Even now as the year ends, I am still haunted by those students who virtually vanished from my online classroom. Were they OK? Did they lose internet access? Why didn’t they respond to my texts and calls? It kept me up every night not knowing.

Moreover, the things that made teaching so enjoyable were no longer there. Joking around with Maurice and Demetrius in 5th period about working at a pizza chain. Seeing De’Aijah’s big smile every morning before the first bell rang. Watching Cam, who said he would never be able to speak any Spanish, raise his hand during the warm-up every day to belt out a perfectly spoken sentence. The more time I spent teaching from home, the more my heart ached for these moments.

Now that the school calendar has come to an end, this will be a summer like no other. With the coronavirus still raging, and with school districts making unprecedented decisions; the unknowns are stacked considerably higher than the knowns.

We do not yet know what the fall will bring; but I know what I will do. I will revamp my practices to engage parents more often in ways online. I will seek out modules and development courses on teaching virtually and how to be effective. I will schedule more virtual office hours and encourage students and families to log in. I will go beyond creating content for just my class, and I will publish bonus content about the arts, music, dance and games in order to engage my students in ways that are not simply traditional schooling.

Most of all, when we are able to return to in-person schooling, I will never again wish to teach from my living room. I will no longer take for granted the beauty of standing in a room full of prodigious energy, raw potential and eager minds.

The coronavirus slapped me in the face. This summer, I start hitting back.

Kevin Cournoyer teaches Spanish at Green Street Academy in Baltimore City Public Schools; his email is kecournoyer@bcps.k12.md.us.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement