3 Years After Covid: Reflection and Lessons Learned
It's been three years since the dreaded Covid lockdown. I think it's important to reflect, learn, and grow from the experience. There are lots or pros and cons that came out the experience. I reached out to my subscribers and asked them a few questions about their feelings post-covid. Read about my own experiences as well!
I remember being at a HUGE science fair with my family in early March 2020. The discussion of the coronavirus was definitely a thing at that point, and quite honestly, it did get me thinking. Is this fair going to be a superspreader event? It was not too long after that the talks of a two-week school closure started happening.
My school asked me and two other tech-savvy teachers to prepare materials for the entire staff. Tips, ideas, lessons for them to go digital for two weeks. We spent an entire day doing this...and none of it was even used. The reason for that was things kept CHANGING. Suddenly, we were being told we were going to Zoom (huh?), provide asynchronous and synchronous work (huh whuh?), and were going to have to prepare individual material for our own classes for two weeks.
We all thought it was only going to be two weeks.
I compiled a huge test prep Slides presentation. I figured, meh, it's two weeks, test prep is lame anyway so this is something they could do on their own. To be honest, it wasn't too difficult for me to transition because I was already very digital. (Also, during the height of the pandemic, my TpT sales SKYROCKETED because of all my digital material, so that was a nice added bonus). I also was a GoGuardian frequenter, so that was super helpful. My team came up with a schedule, we stuck to it, and those first two weeks weren't too bad.
But then...we weren't returning. That's when it got ugly.
My Personal Cons
Kids disappearing and being distracted: This was brutal. The students were on a schedule as per admin, but kids would just not show up. Or, they'd show up, and have cameras off. Or they'd have cameras on, but were clearly not listening. Or, they were babysitting their siblings. I had one student who had 7 younger siblings he had to watch! I emailed. I chatted. I called out to the students. It was awful and so distracting. It was nearly impossible to get through a lesson.
The growth of apathy: So much apathy. Kids were depressed. I was depressed. It was awful teaching from home. It was awful not socializing (for kids...I didn't mind so much haha). So many students gave up and didn't try.
The parents: Ugh. There are definitely positives here so read the next section for that! But the bad was...baaaaad. I had some very awful things said to me during this time. I had parents listening in and telling me what I should or should not teach. I had parents doing student's work for them. It was a small percentage, but it was brutal. These same parents gave no accountability to their child and would not help them in such a horrific time.
I get it. Parents were struggling, too. But being mean, hateful, and completely unaccountable just should not fly.
My own personal life: My son was in preschool. His school was closed, not opening, no virtual. So he was home the whole time. It was actually easy at first, because my husband was home and not working (and getting paid...so very grateful for that). Once the whole hybrid/cohort model started, that's when it got impossible. He was in Kindergarten when that started. Trying to find someone to pick him up when I wasn't home was sooo challenging. Our schedules were totally different. It ended up being my mother or his older nanny, who were fantastic, but the tech stuff was tough for them.
Hybrid: HATED IT SO MUCH. I seriously still get nightmares. Some kids on Zoom. Some kids in the classroom. It was the absolute worst teaching to a screen and to real live children at the same time. This did not work. It was literally teaching two classes at the same time. How the heck did we do that? And the cohorts? And the whacky schedule? Forget it.
My Personal Pros
Embracing tech: Prior to covid, I was on the tech bandwagon big time. The transition to being paperless was non-existent for my classes because my class was 90% tech-based. As a result, teachers started to embrace more technology. Companies started creating some really cool innovative ways to use technology. Teachers collaborated from all over the world. A lot of this was thanks to technology
Parents: While there were a few very bad experiences with parents, there were also many who were amazing. Super supportive...helped their child get ready each day. Helped them have a space to work. And these were parents of all incomes and situations. They made it work. These students could not possibly have been successful without the support of these parents. Social justice: A lot happened during this time and people started speaking up more about inequality. We had time to really mull and think about the world around us and now, today social justice is a huge part of the curriculum (at least in NJ). I feel so bad for teachers in states where this is being banned.
Teamwork: How many of you had group texts going with your teams? So much texting, but it was helpful! So many teachers came together during this time to help each other out. I feel this made our bond so much better. Bonding more with my son: As much as I was devastated that he was not in a real school situation, I got to spend so much more time with him, my husband, too, during those early days. We had "Mommy and Daddy school" and he really did so well. Again, I am always so grateful to have one child (by choice). This whole experience really strengthened our family bond.
What Others Said
I sent out an email to my loyal followers and asked them the following two questions. Here are some highlights from their responses.
How has Covid impacted your teaching?
It has increased student apathy and behaviors, which makes teaching incredibly difficult.
Filling in more gaps has been the biggest challenge. Students were not in school for two years and it just seems like they forgot how to be a student.
I've learned to slow down and that repetition appears to be more important than ever!
It's harder. Adding online teaching was unpopular and stressful, yet some students love it. Thus, I know try to do both. It also affected me personally long-term, so I have lost focus and concentration.
I need to do more reteaching and teaching of concepts that should have been taught in younger grades.
I feel like I have to be more entertaining to truly engage the students.
The academic level of the students lowers each year.
Covid has impacted my teaching greatly. In addition to having to teach remotely without ANY preparation when things got crazy, students were disengaged, and everyone was simply fearful for their own lives and safety, as well as for their families. Now, in the wake of the worst of it, we are left trying to resume normalcy and get back to regular life, and it seems this is expected to be easy, but we ALL were traumatized by this pandemic, and we are all still coming to terms with it.
Covid has heightened my awareness of students mood and attitude changes. I think these things change as they are coming down with the sickness. If caught early, less of my students are effected.
Covid made my teaching adapt to more virtual lessons and work. After covid, we had to Zoom/record lessons for kids who were sick and technology played a bigger part in education.
I have grown a lot as a teacher these past few years, and I'm proud of what I've learned and accomplished, especially in terms of technology and relationship building.
I spend more time reviewing some of the basic elements before each unit because students either didn't get it or completely forgot the material. Also, I teach each unit slower and try to create activities and assignments that get my kids off their Chromebooks. Another change in how I teach my kids is that I have to provide more structure, routine, and accountability in my classes since Covid because many of my kids still struggle with all of these elements. Finally, I try to incorporate brain breaks into each lesson because I still see kids struggling to maintain focus or shorter amounts of time.
How has Covid affected the classroom (students, class dynamics, work completion, etc.)?
Students think classwork is optional and struggle with peer interactions.
Students have less of a foundation in their basic skills and are missing some independent problem solving skills (lack of resourcefulness).
It has changed the way that students engage. It is much harder. Students do not see the value in school. They are less engaged in class and hardly at all after school (homework/studying).
Students are extremely apathetic. They don’t care about their grades or turning in work. Everything we do takes at least twice as long. I feel like we are moving at a snail's pace. I ask them to write a paragraph and you’d think I just told them to run a marathon… They also can NOT sit still or be quiet. They constantly talk while I’m talking. Trying to grade or anything during independent work/reading time is also nonexistent because they need constant babysitting.
COVID seems to have left everyone on edge: scared of what might happen next, testy with others, not sleeping well, and just plain tired.
Students definitely have less focus and less reading stamina.
Students are lacking SO many social skills that I previously took for granted! Work ethic has also gone downhill- my students are resistant to anything that may challenge their brains. When I talk about grades, I am amazed at how lackadaisical they are about them. Grades are viewed as "good enough" and they never seen to think about how much better their grades could be with some effort! Also, while I'm ranting, most students want me to hold their hands while going through an assignment- answers are expected- uh, NO!
Many students are more anxious, get overwhelmed easier, have a hard time staying focused, more students are depressed as well as angrier, students struggle to turn work in, some like to stay isolated, and some think their assignments aren't important because of the inconsistency in the guidelines teachers were give when we went virtual.
Students are incredibly apathetic. They have fallen so woefully behind because their attention span is less than a TikTok video. Parents have checked out for a large number of kids. District demands are increasingly impossible because of all this.
I believe that when students lost the opportunity to interact with their peers, their social and emotional development stalled. We are seeing those effects in our classrooms now.
Less grit, less compliance with basic instructions/procedures, less work, less respect for others, less coping skills, less patience, just LESS.
It definitely seems Covid has left a more negative impact on us teachers and the students. So where do we go from here?
I firmly believe in living in the solution and taking control of what we CAN control. There are so many things I've changed since Covid:
I take sick days. I have them, I will use them. (Although I still struggle with this eery time. I hate making sub plans so much).
I do not take much work home anymore. I HAVE to separate work life and home life.
I no longer allow students who don't put in effort affect me. This drove me nuts during Covid. My anxiety was through the roof chasing down students. I am over it. I can't do it to myself anymore. I will try to reach them, of course, but I am NOT going to let it stress me out anymore. I am wiping my hands of parents and kids who don't care. (This does not mean I ignore students who are struggling mentally or have horrible home lives...I am just done with the students who simply don't try).
I focus all of my energy on MY classroom and try not to focus on what's beyond that (this one's a challenge haha).
I am repeating a lot of lessons and not trying anything new, really. This is not forever. This is just for now while I recover from the past few years.
I use GoGuardian chat a lot to communicate with students.
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