A new teacher’s new normal

This piece comes from Ashley Bason, a teacher in Baltimore. Her twitter handle is @AshleyMBason

My “new normal” does not compare to the traditional classroom routine I was becoming accustomed to. I was use to seeing the same four classes everyday for 75-minutes. Now, I see all of my students twice a week for 45-minutes. I find myself becoming extremely overwhelmed with lesson planning. How do you tailor a traditional classroom curriculum to one that is appropriate for an online setting? How do you ensure that the gap between my students and their more affluent counterparts is not widening to a point where some students will not have a fighting chance? When I tailor the curriculum, I try to think about what skills are absolutely necessary in order for my 11th graders to be successful as they continue their education. I am responsible for educating a group of students during a critical time in their high school career, which results in me devoting a lot of my time to work. At times, I feel as if my work world has invaded my personal space and there is no way to escape it. Since I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I try to use Mondays and Wednesdays as my planning days. Instead, I find myself consumed with emails on Mondays. Consumed with grading and meetings on Wednesdays. And, my weekends (including Fridays) turn into student/parent outreach and planning days. There is no “off time.” I tried creating a normal schedule of being available between 8am to 3pm during the week; however, I quickly realized that that was not plausible. Most of my students do not start reaching out for help until after we meet, and our virtual sessions do not end until 2:15pm. Meaning, from about 2:30pm until the wee hours of the morning, I am receiving emails and texts from students who need assistance with assignments. Due to the strong relationships I built with my students, they know that I believe in them and will do anything to ensure their success. So, that results in me meeting them where they are and responding at times that would not be the norm if we were operating in normal times. Sometimes, I ask myself should I make assignments easier to avoid the amount of assistance students need? But, if I do not go above and beyond and require rigor from my students… have I failed them? Since I teach all but one of the five sections of English III, I sometimes feel as if I am on an island by myself. I know that other teachers from my department would assist me if I reached out, but I do not want to add to anyone’s plate. When my department meets for our weekly meetings, I often leave feeling somewhat rejuvenated. We share best practices and really make each other feel encouraged. However, that feeling of inspiration can often leave rather quickly when I am reminded about the many things on my to-do list. Since this world is new to everyone, I believe that all parties involved are doing their best. However, I believe teachers are the ones left the most stressed.

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