Teachers Are Holding Our Families Together During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The sudden change in daily life due to the coronavirus pandemic is not only frightening for children, it is isolating and traumatic, with disrupted daily routines; closed schools; and sports, extracurricular activities, meetings and sleepovers with friends suspended indefinitely. But countless educators are taking initiatives that go far beyond lesson plans and online education to counter these negative impacts of COVID-19 – and their Herculean efforts support many families without other support during this difficult time .
Teachers who work ten to twelve hours a day from home help children stay active, focused, motivated, engaged and connected, despite the lock-in. They provide students with a social network, as well as a sense of continuity, purpose, growth and belonging to a larger community. Teachers provide order, schedule and routine for days that otherwise seem repetitive, boring, uncertain, and endless. They add color, music, joy, surprise and even adventure to the monotony of children’s days in isolation. In some cases, schools also continue to feed students eligible for free meals, who would otherwise be hungry while trapped at home, acting as a virtual lifeline in times of desperate need.
One of my preteen teachers regularly sends children short meditations to help them deal with stress, anxiety, or other difficult emotions. And the director of her elementary school launched a YouTube cooking channel, offering students healthy food ideas to prepare and enjoy with their family while at home. Her gym teacher offers a daily 15-minute online workout or physical challenge throughout the school, which often involves extended families. But my daughter’s school is not alone in these efforts. My son’s daycares sent video hugs and silly songs to entertain the little ones, as well as small weekly DIY projects, including making a puzzle out of pieces of cardboard or playing dough with flour and salt.
Countless other parents across the country gratefully share similar stories, stories that highlight some of the many ways educators work to support children and families during the pandemic.
Erica, mother of two, reports that the director of her school in northern California records a short live video on Facebook to “greet” the children, just as she does on the curb when the school is in session. Rose, a parent in New York, says that her children’s school sends out a mindfulness exercise every morning for all classes.
And several parents applauded the way their schools immediately implemented free meals for children, which were generally provided by the Ministry of Education. “Our school district provides students who need it or want a packed lunch,” said Jenna, another parent from New York. “It was the first thing that our district put in place, before our academics. We are mainly free or reduced lunches here. Without school, children are hungry. Three days after the program started, they also started giving breakfast to students for the next day. They opened to any student residing in the area, aged 18 and under. No need to apply or present proof of residence. They serve more than three thousand meals a week.“
Emily Burch Harris reports that her son’s fourth grade class at an elementary school in North Carolina has made virtual field trips to the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Natural Sciences, among other places of interest. “The teachers prepared a PowerPoint presentation which started with a bus slide, announcing: ‘The buses are here, let’s deploy!'” Students even wore school T-shirts for virtual outings, and followed up with a personal art project on three things they had learned. The “amazing” art teacher has made videos and encourages children to work on art projects at home with all the materials they have on hand, adds Harris.
Maria Falgoust, chief librarian in Brooklyn, New York, worked hard to create entertaining and educational video clips with other educators at her school. Falgoust keeps his students captivated and engaged in literacy with moments of funny virtual stories, and shares “ridiculous” videos of ideas on how to stay active in small spaces, using books as weights.
Right across the East River, Manhattan grade four special education teacher Sabrina Faust motivates her students at home to keep learning and stay positive for countless hours of carefully planned projects to enjoy from afar. So far, she has taken virtual tours to explore “places around the world, from zoos to museums and cool street art.” a journalism unit focused on the personal experiences of children during the pandemic; regular videoconferences to check families and children on an individual platform, and regular class “meetings” to play games like reverse I Spy or Guess Who. She even organized a talent show.
Faust, like so many other teachers working tirelessly and at a distance, addresses the broader emotional issues of the pandemic as well as the challenges of distance education, all at the same time. It does this through private journals with students who are struggling to overcome anxiety during this difficult time, and accommodations for those with learning and attention needs, including hotlines and personal video calls to provide positive feedback and encouragement – to name a few.
As parents of two young children confined to the home by the pandemic, the unlimited efforts, positivity and dedication of these educators to their students are inspiring, humiliating and monumental. At a time when families are more overwhelmed than ever, this additional support offers both comfort and hope. For children of all ages trapped at home, teachers are the essential workers and unsung heroes keep days interesting, meaningful, aware and much more fun. They nourish the bodies and minds of children during an unprecedented prolonged period of deprivation. And in my own home, as in many others, educators receive well-deserved daily applause of admiration and gratitude for helping children continue to grow, explore, discover and move forward together, even if the world remains blocked. , for the moment.