March 13, 2020, I remember walking around my classroom, staring at the faces of each student and convinced I would see them after Spring Break. COVID-19 wasn’t real and it was all the way in China. There’s no way this disease would impact me. Little did I know that teaching as I knew it had changed.
As we pass the one-year anniversary of this moment in time, I’m amazed at how much God has kept me safe and calm.
It was just a year ago when I learned that church was going to be online, my heart sank. Never in my life had I imagined that the church building would close. My life was crumbling in front of me and I didn’t know what to do. I could feel my anxiety increasing as I started to worry about everything. Was this real? How bad was this? Would our family survive? Did we have everything we needed? I remember looking at my husband for guidance and advice.
That’s when he reminded me to have faith. We would get through this, and we would be fine. There was no sense worrying about the unknown. God had everything under control and knew exactly how this would turn out.
Shifting to a “New Normal”
The next few weeks were difficult, as they were for everyone. Friends and family canceled their trips. Stores had directional signs indicating which aisle you could go down. Commercials and signs reminded us to wash our hands and keep our distance. The world was definitely changing and education would not be the same, at least for some time.
Everything from this moment forward was going to be new territory for teachers. From the moment I woke, I was focused on everything that I needed to do. I had a few moments of solitude before the chaos began. God, please help me through another day!
Alarms were set to ensure my own children made it to their Zoom classes on time. Now, it was time to wake everyone up so that we could begin our days. The struggle to get them to brush their teeth, showered and dressed seemed to fall to the wayside. My priority was just that they could get up and be in their routine so that I could focus on teaching. Zoom calls began. I taught classes with my children periodically interrupting my lessons to ask questions, praying that no one ran through the house in their underwear. That was the easy part.
As I ended my last Zoom call, my work was not even close to being done. I had to be the parent to ensure my children were doing their assigned homework. The struggle for them to complete their assignments was more than usual. They missed their teachers and friends, and mom’s expectations were definitely more challenging than they would have liked. I was juggling three kids and homework while cooking dinner with one eye and still trying to finish up work with the other.
Children of this generation love being on technology, but not for education. Why would they want to be online listening to their teacher when they felt they could just do the assignment and have free time? Black rectangles with white names printed on them was the face of the new classroom. A few smiling faces brought hope to a dark screen, but the silence was painful. You see, when teaching in a classroom, there’s a noise that you get used to. You can hear another student whisper a question to their friend when they don’t understand something. They engage by shaking or nodding their heads. The lack of connections and conversations was even draining me.
The next pandemic starts—the mental one.
Being in the classroom, the curriculum is not the only thing teachers are focusing on. As a teacher, these kids become our kids. You may give hugs when you see a student crying. You may counsel them because their best friend is no longer speaking to them. You take the time to listen and let them know they have someone that loves and supports them.
Education cannot occur without those relationships existing. And now, I knew students were at home with barely any food to feed their families. I knew that they had to help watch their siblings because their parents still had to go to work. I knew they wanted to run away and escape these problems and they begged for attention that I couldn’t give over a computer screen. I brought meals to some that I knew wouldn’t make it through the week without support. I prayed for my students and their families. I longed for normalcy and God’s protection for all. God, please grant me peace during this storm.
There was no separation between work, family and time for myself. I was really struggling. I remember breaking down one night, utterly exhausted and just not sure what to do. I needed help from above. I turned to my Bible and began reading. With a few chapters each night, peace-filled my day. Life was still hectic, but the inner peace made me strong. Matthew 6:34 started to transform into my life verse: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I needed to truly trust God and know that He would get me through each day.
When the school year ended, I felt like a weight being lifted. Online learning had finished, but no one knew what lay ahead for the fall. Would we be in person? Would the virus go away? All I could do was trust that everything would be ok. Tomorrow was not something I should worry about.
God had it under control and I just needed to get through this each day at a time.
Fast forward to the 2020-2021 school year. Our district decided to take a risk and resume instruction in person. There was a lot of concern amongst staff about returning to face-to-face instruction. Several of my colleagues decided to leave and turn to virtual teaching. I would not do that. I wanted and needed to be a teacher in the physical classroom but I had no idea what that would look like.
Our normal professional development for the start of the school year consisted of our new safety training. We needed to make sure that students were properly wearing their masks. These kids who longed to be near their friends were told that they had to stay 6 feet apart at all times. Lockers would not be used and they would need to carry their stuff between each class. A tape measure became attached to my hip just in case the desks were moved and I needed to remeasure. Seating charts were made, one-way signs in the hallways and we opened our doors.
You are not supposed to talk about religion in school. However, I prayed my students had the faith of a child of God and knew it would be okay.
I asked for God to please grant me these things:
Calm – to keep a calm tone when teaching to the students.
Grace – to allow them to turn in assignments late because I did not always know the situation they were going through at home.
Compassion – to show my students the unconditional love God provides us
Patience, trust, and energy – there was no way I could get through this school year without God as the captain of my ship.
Desks were sprayed and wiped between each hour and teaching seemed somewhat back to usual. Well, that was until we started to contact trace. Students were being picked up in the middle of the day after hearing the student they sat by the previous day tested positive. They would now need to quarantine and learn from home.
Throughout this school year, we have had to switch to remote teaching on several occasions. My heart aches for these kids. So many of my students have shared that they hate remote learning. They aren’t able to focus at home. They miss their friends. They don’t have their teacher hovering over them ensuring they are focused. It’s just not the same and we all know it. There are a few students who I pray extra hard for. What they are going through at home is not something that they should have to face alone. School is a safe place for many and they receive the support they need.
Over the last two months at Shepherd’s Gate Church, we talked about the book of Daniel and how Daniel was a man of God who stood strong with the challenges he faced that were beyond his control. Although I am not Daniel, the “new normal” of teaching has presented many challenges. There were nights when I would plan to teach in person and get a notification at 9 pm the night before that we were switching to remote tomorrow. Covid cases were increasing and we needed to limit exposure.
Each time I received a notification that a student in my classroom tested positive, I worried. Every night I prayed that I wouldn’t have to quarantine and that God would keep our family safe. Every time I began to worry, I was quickly reminded by the promise that God is on my side. I need to stand strong and trust Him.
I know that this pandemic isn’t over and can’t predict when it will be. It won’t be on man’s timing. Remember to put your trust and faith in God. He has been and will continue to be our strength and keep us safe.
Here’s a challenge for you and one that I take on every day—to wake up every morning and turn to God. To give Him all the worry, anxiety, and angst you are feeling and remember that God has a plan for my life and yours. He will carry you through every storm and continue to provide you with all the blessings He has in store for your life.