The Covid Burden, on us
There has been a toll, no doubt.
Last week, I wrote about some early conclusions I have reached about the impacts of the Covid burden on our students. This week, I would like to address the Covid Burden on us, as their teachers.
In many ways, broadly speaking, the burden on us has been much less. Particularly those of us who could convert our teaching to an online modality, we have been able to stay home and work.
But we too have come down with the virus. We too have lost loved ones and friends. Being older, we have had a greater amount of existential dread about the deadliness of the virus for older populations.
But we are also the adults in the room. And we are called upon by our position as teachers to have it all together, no matter the circumstances. Many - even most - of us have risen to the challenge of making it all work, even under the most trying of circumstances.
There has to have been a toll, however. This week I am writing to try to articulate what that toll has been, for us as teachers.
First and foremost, I think, has been our care for our students, who have been struggling under the weight of the pandemic. It has been hard - somedays very hard - to see our students burdened by their own illness and their loss of loved ones. Adjusted lesson plans or extra support is part of our job, but where there is a lot of it, it does create an extra burden. When a student has pain, also part of our job as teachers is to try to help them with that pain, so they can get back to a point where they can learn again. Because - as we all know - it is very hard to learn anything when you are in hungry or in pain. So taking on the burdens of our students, and accommodating them as necessary, has created a toll on us.
Second, this has gone on so long. Ask a teacher to take on an extra burden in their work, and they will say Sure! but want to know for how long. We never got told how long we had to do this. And two years has been just too long. We are worn out. Bone tired.
Third, the accumulation of little losses. A student coming late to class and disrupting it. Numerous students with significant mental health issues. A class session that did not go as well as it usually does, and the loss of the joy that comes from it going well.
Fourth, less fun. Teaching can be fun - a hoot and a half. But there have not been as many smiles in the classroom over the last two years, and they were behind masks when there were some. So the pockets of fun, which are energizing, have been lessened or just lacking most days. Without those boosts to get you through the days and the weeks, it becomes a slog.
Fifth, efficacy. One of our greatest joys is to see our students learn. But if they are struggling to learn, if their work is not measuring up, it is easy to take that personally. We all know it is more likely because of the burden of the pandemic on them, but it still stings to read several final paper that misses key points you taught and reviewed a dozen times.
For some reason I do not think this is what my university employer wants to hear about on my “Covid impact statement.” But it is what I have got so far. Please let us know what the Covid impact has been for you - how has it set you back the last two years? What have you missed most?
Letters of Recommendation
Although I have only just started it, I can already recommend the new book by international concert pianist Jeremy Denk. It is called Every Good Boy Does Fine. Beautifully written and containing funny stories from his childhood - a lot of which was spent learning the piano.
Q of the Week
The Q of the Week this week is a Quote from Todd Wittaker:
Great teachers have high expectations of their students, but even higher expectations for themselves.
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