My husband and I spend most of the time living in our apartment at Deerfield and we were able to settle there before quarantine started. We have just recently come down to a mountain house in Pennsylvania for a little bit to quarantine here. We are so fortunate to be able to live in both of these places because in both areas, we’re still able to go outside. We’ve also been really lucky that our internet has been stable with two people on zoom all day because we’re both teachers.
I’d say my pregnancy is taking over my mind the most right now. Being pregnant during this time is the hardest thing for me. I think that it would have been even weirder to have a small child or a newborn right now, but it just feels strange to not be celebrating right now. I can celebrate with my husband, but it's not the same. Sometimes I’ll show my classes how much I’ve grown via zoom and it’s so different than how it would usually be if we were all at school. On the bright side, I can also focus a little bit more on my pregnancy because I’m not quite as busy.
To be totally honest, moving to online learning has been tough. It’s hard because it’s everyone’s first time doing this, and as teachers, we’re trying to make it into a good experience for the students while also figuring out what it means for us. Questions like, “what does grading look like?” and “how do we make it so students aren’t doing too much work but they’re still learning?” were difficult questions to answer. They still are. Because we only have so many classes, I’m always nervous that we won’t make it through everything in time. I often want to try new things in class, but it could potentially be a failure and then we would have wasted a class period— it wouldn’t be completely wasted, but time is just so limited and precious that you just want to make every single second count.
I hope that we will be able to return to campus as soon as possible. I hope that this pandemic will impact learning less than we think. There are good and bad things about this situation. The good thing is that I’ve learned how to use lots of new tools I could use in person, but the bad thing is that we’ve had to cut so much material out of our curriculums. From the perspective of a math teacher, this truly impacts students who aren’t receiving all of the foundation they would normally need to move forward into a higher level of math. Teachers will have to think about how having to cut material will impact their students and classes in the future. I don’t think that will be as big of a deal as I had originally thought, though. Students are resilient, which is amazing. And teachers will just have to expect that there’s going to be some lag next school year and it’s not anyone's fault.
My experience teaching during this pandemic has honestly gone better than I expected. Everyone has been super positive, which helps so much. My students are the best and they are always engaged. We’re also very fortunate at Deerfield— most of our student population has internet access, and people have adapted so well to online content. Deerfield has been so great about getting teachers adjusted to online development, and they have worked really hard to make sure that we felt as prepared as we could to enter this unknown territory in under a week of training. From an education standpoint, I hope that this situation opens up people’s eyes to some real inequities in the world. Again, at Deerfield, we are so lucky that everyone could get what they needed— like access to the internet and laptops.
I hope it also opens up teachers’ eyes to all of the things that could be going on in kids’ lives. I always try to be compassionate, and our pass/fail grading system has been a blessing because I have more leeway to help kids not feel less pressure about assignments. I can say, “how are you?” and “what’s going on at home; do you need to talk?” instead of “why aren’t you doing your work?” and “ why aren’t you prioritizing your studies?”. This has given me a broader perspective about how many different things could be going on in someone’s life, and I think it’s much easier to see them while everyone’s at home. I’m not saying we should get rid of grades, but it’s been really nice to have the pass/fail system— I can really focus on how my students are feeling, how the experience is going for them, and how to be a better teacher.
Written by: Siobhan Kelley