These past two years have been a lot. They have brought a lot of negatives – uncertainty, stress, frustration, loss, worries, constant changes… it’s been… a lot. But, I’ve also learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve reflected a lot on myself and my role as a teacher. Today I want to share with you the top 5 things that teaching during covid has taught me.
1. Behavior is communication
I did know this earlier, but never has it been more true than these past two years of teaching during covid. Children’s behavior is communication. Children have been communicating their confusion, their uncertainty, their stress, their worries, and more through their behaviors. Behavior is communication. The increases we are seeing in misbehaviors at school and at home… the children are trying to tell us what they need. They need social interaction and they support growing their social skills. They didn’t have a lot of social connection, so this makes sense right? But when we see children who aren’t “where they should be” we get easily frustrated. “How do they not know how to share?!”… well… they haven’t had to share for the past two years. They don’t know how to cooperate with others.
When children are constantly talking to adults instead of their peers, they are telling us they need help making friends. They haven’t really had the chance to practice this, so of course this is something they need help with. When children ask the teacher a million and one questions about the activity, they are expressing their overall anxiety and stress… not about that one activity, but about the world around them. Children take everything in… what they hear on the news, what they see on TV or social media, what they feel their parents are feeling… they are very good observers. And they process it all the best they can. Often we can get a glimpse into their processing through their behaviors. So, while I already knew that behavior is communication, it has never been more clear or more true to me than these past two years teaching during covid.
2. Children need consistency and routine
Again something I knew was important, but wow…. Consistency and routine aren’t just important, they are necessary! Children had no idea (none of us did!) when schools would go remote and reopen to in-person, when they’d have home days or school days. Children had no idea how long schools would be remote for. When they were at home, their routines were drastically different from school routines, because how could it be the same as school? Parents were working, remote schedules were different, technology may or may not have worked… of course the routine was different.
Watching my class this year, I really started to notice a positive shift in behaviors a month or so into school. It was almost like the class took a collective deep breath. I really believe it was from having the routine every day be the same, and realizing that school would stay consistent this year (although omicron almost threw a wrench in that for us and did for so many).
3. Social emotional learning must be a priority
If we as a society don’t understand this by now, I don’t know what more to tell you. Teachers and parents are crying out for more social and emotional support for their children after these past two years. Again… behavior is communication. We are all seeing increases in behaviors and why is this? They need social and emotional skill building and supports. They missed out on crucial opportunities to learn and practice these skills, and now they are calling out for help. We must support them with this. Schools need more time for social emotional learning or, like my school, understand that teachers might need to scrap lessons and curriculum to address the social and emotional gaps. If we don’t, learning can’t happen anyways! Schools also need more counselors and social workers. They are miracle workers. There are just never enough of them!
4. It’s ok to push back for your students
Teaching during covid has absolutely taught me to push back and do what’s right for my students. When I see they need a movement break, I do one. No more – oh but I should have started writing 2 minutes ago. No. If they need a break, they get one. If they need a social emotional lesson because of an issue that happened that day or the day before, we stop what we are doing and I lead an SEL lesson for them. When the curriculum expects them to have the knowledge of a typical year, but the students are missing skills from the past two years, I adapt the lessons. I meet my students where they are.
Sometimes I get questions from teachers about what to say if an administrator asks why you aren’t on x lesson or why you are doing x instead of y… well, in my case, as long as I can explain why what I am doing meets my students needs, then they are completely understanding. They appreciate that I am meeting the needs of my students.
5. My job is not my whole existence
This was probably the biggest takeaway from the last two years. Teaching really was my identity. When schools first closed in March 2020, I really didn’t know who I was without my students, without my classroom. Then, teaching remotely, I had no idea what I was doing! No one did! I didn’t have my classroom, my normal supplies, my routine… I couldn’t sit on the screen longer than I absolutely had to. At the end of the school day I shut my computer down and I just HAD to go do something else. I had almost no control over anything (which is definitely hard for a type-A personality like me).
So when school was over for the day, I HAD to think about something else. Otherwise my anxiety would get worse. I started going for walks, reading books, and trying different kinds of exercise. I used to never read, except for in the summers. Now I’m even in a book club! I realized that I can do so much more with my day, my time, my life, than just teaching. I can give teaching my all during the school day, and then when the day is done, I can be a wife, a cat mom, a reader, a tv binger, a business owner, and so much more! It’s a much healthier way of thinking than having my job be my whole existence.
Teaching during covid definitely taught me a lot. From teaching on a computer, to how to play a math game with a partner 6 feet apart, to the bigger takeaways like the fact that my job is not my whole existence in life. I’m curious – what are you big takeaways as you reflect on the last two years? Comment below or send me a message on social media! I’d love to hear from you!