Teaching challenges due to the pandemic
It has been two years since the world changed due to the pandemic. Teaching challenges are real. Teaching as we knew it changed and we had to learn to do things in different ways. This has been quite a challenge for both teachers and students.
I have been out of the classroom for a while now, but not out of the teaching mode. I was volunteering and doing small group instruction in the school until the pandemic hit, as well as doing one on one tutoring at my home. I was also doing ukulele group rehearsals with my husband until restrictions shut that down. This meant that I had to find ways to continue doing some of this virtually as well.
I kept in touch with teachers from my school and tried to find ways that I could somehow support them through providing resources, offering suggestions for certain specific circumstances, and just being there to bounce ideas off or even vent, if needed. As much as I wanted to be there to help out, it was not allowed. Also, my husband had just had a heart attack and I needed to keep him safe. I often felt frustrated that I wasn't able to do more to help.
I found that virtually teaching music was definitely unsatisfying and not sustainable with one way instruction. Our groups dwindled significantly and we discovered that what we thought was working, wasn't. In fact, we discovered many things were different than they had appeared. We tried doing virtual performances, and we even tried to do some one on one support when it was allowed, but it was so hard. Two of my children are music teachers, and they found this very challenging as well. For those who had to teach music classes virtually, I feel your pain.
Feedback from some teachers
As an aftermath to online teaching and hybrid teaching, many teachers are finding it difficult to catch up on missed learning. When I asked "What has been the most difficult part of teaching during the pandemic?" one of the most common responses was about kids being behind and stress for the teachers and kids. Here are some responses.
"Stress related to trying to catch up the lost time the children have had due to shutdowns. Many have fallen behind in both reading and writing."
"Trying to catch kids up who are behind because of missed school. In my class they are either really low or really high."
"The kids who are missing school are stressing out when they come back and they are further behind."
"students being at home due to illness or quarantine"
"Teachers are really tired. It is hard to do report cards. Little change since conferences in November. Conferences are coming up again next month. Stressed out, lots of paperwork."
I know it is hard to think of these issues without feeling stressed and in some cases "behind the eight ball". However, in order to meet needs, both academically and emotionally, the focus needs to be on the kids and where they are.
In any primary classroom, there can often be a huge range in levels of reading and writing abilities. This isn't new, but right now they are more obvious and the gaps are bigger. The demands of meeting standards and testing requirements sometimes loom in front of us and it is difficult to put that aside and focus on the kids and their needs.
Some tips and ideas for moving forward
What I have discovered from working with small groups and tutoring, is that it is important to find out where the kids are at and move forward while adding in the missing building blocks so they can progress. For example: I had some kids that were in grade 4 and 5 who were struggling with the math concepts being covered in their classes. I discovered that they still didn't know their basic facts. We spent some time working on different ways to add and subtract using dice and manipulatives, and once they had a handle of these, we moved on to multiplication and division using strategies to help with these concepts. It was amazing how this helped them to better understand what was going on in class. They still needed some extra support, but they developed some confidence and this helped them to tackle new material.
Reading with younger children really is developmental and kids will progress at different rates. Those who didn't get as much practice or support while learning virtually will need more time to be ready. Encouraging them as they continue to work on their skills will do wonders for them. The same goes for writing. Keep providing opportunities to work on their skills and practice and they will start to show improvement. It may take a bit longer to get caught up to the expected levels, but as long as they are showing growth, all is good.
If the kids are to develop confidence and continue to grow they need to be encouraged and supported in their learning. Bottom line is, their emotional well being has to be protected and nurtured as they work towards developing their skills.
Consider using guided reading groups and math groups to help with tailoring material for specifics levels and needs. If you need some help with this, check out my guided reading getting started post.
For those struggling with writing, consider using scaffolds, descriptive writing activities, and fun ways to work on parts of speech.
As for you, remember to take care of yourself and enjoy working with your students. You can only do so much. Give yourself some grace and just do what you can. In time, the kids will catch up if they know you care and they are encouraged to keep going and trying.
I wish you a happy rest of the year with many successes in your classroom.
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About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.