I am not a teacher that usually doubts myself. When provided feedback, I take it and work hard to improve. When other teachers have great ideas, I try to implement them. I know there is always room to grow and that I am not perfect – but I know that I am a good teacher and that even when I make mistakes, I always do my best to correct them. I love my students fiercely.
However, Covid-19 teaching has made me feel like the worst teacher in the world. I teach middle school learning support and because my students have learning disabilities, part of my job is to make choices on how to educate them that is meaningful and challenging, but not more than they can handle. I do this on an individual basis for all of my students.
During this time, I am finding myself frustrated at some of the lack of effort my students are putting forth. Some of them aren’t logging onto the computer at all, and I know that they have access to laptops and the internet at home. Some of them have sent me Snapchat and Instagram request, for goodness sakes, I know they’re on there! For those that don’t, I’ve been making packets and trying to provide meaningful instruction at that level. I spend hours every week creating and recording lesson plans that are adapted, trying to help students who are included in regular education as well as their teachers, write IEPs, meet with my students on Zoom, provide emotional and autistic support for all of those that receive services, collaborate with speech and OT, and the list could go on forever. I get frustrated because I am spending so much time for them, but some of them aren’t even logging on to watch the lessons.
Then I remember some of the homelives that some of my students have. Some of them don’t have enough food in their house. Some of them have parents that work. Some of them wish their parents worked so they could have some peace and quiet. Some of them are watching their younger siblings. Some of them are being watched by mean older siblings. Some of them are worried because it is 2AM and their parents said they’d be home at midnight for the 5th night this week. Some of them are watching their parents do drugs. Some are quietly avoiding their parents so they don’t get hit for being too loud. Some of them have parents that won’t help them with their work. Some of them listen to their parents scream at me when I call to help them. Some are being told how terrible I am, and some are starting to believe it.
I feel like I am failing my students by expecting them to complete their work. The emotional trauma they could be dealing with at home is unimaginable. How dare I expect these kids to do their work when their basic needs might not be met? On the other hand, if I don’t continue to hold them to high standards, I am still failing them. I am allowing them to have the mentality that when they are faced with adversity, it is okay to go belly up because “times are hard”. If I don’t help them to establish resilience, how can I firmly believe I have prepared them for the world?
Teaching is such a balancing act to begin with, but now we are at this crossroads of providing our students with the best education possible, but also knowing and respecting that their emotional and physical needs might not be met right now. We are trying to have our normal lives go on, but also being on-call 24/7 for our students whose parents aren’t home during the normal school day. I feel so terrible about myself as a teacher and a human being right now, and I’m sure there are many others out here that feel the same way. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. Try your best each day, and realize that you might be your students’ lifeline. Give them grace as well. You’re doing the best you can.