By Danaé Reid
When Jameela Harris embarked on her teaching career, she never imagined that something like a relentless pandemic would completely alter the traditional classroom that made her fall in love with the idea of teaching in the first place. Harris, a 24-year-old 4th grade mathematics teacher at Warner Elementary in Wilmington, Delaware is scrambling to figure out ways to establish a new normal, both for herself and her students, before the first day of school, which is September 8.
DR: When COVID first hit in the tail end of last winter, disrupting the latter half of the school year, what was your plan of action? Did you think that it would last this long?
JH: Unfortunately, at first we honestly didn’t know what to do because COVID was new, so we were waiting for our district to kind of give us instruction on what to do until eventually they did and we kind of made a plan of our own. We made packets and gave Chromebooks to the students so that they could somewhat continue their education. It was a little difficult, because not every student was able to get use the Chromebook and some students did not [have] access to [the] internet, and then there were some who were not able to pick up the homework packets due to lack of transportation, so it became very difficult to ensure that every student was getting the tools they needed to participate in their education process.
DR: What are your primary concerns with online and limited in-person classes? How do you think your students will cope or adjust to the current parameters COVID has forced us into?
JH: My primary concern is that my students won’t be safe at home. I have a lot of students that come from very unfortunate circumstances where school was their only stable environment and was also their only sense of safety and security. However, now that they’re at home, I worry that they may not get all that a school environment provides them.
I do think/hope that my students will adjust the best way they can. It may be difficult for them because of the aforementioned, but also because they’ll miss their friends, their teachers, the environment of school, and so on.
I recall earlier this year when schools first shut down, and the main question was when [or] if we were going back to school. So I think it’ll be a challenge at first, but they will eventually adjust.
DR: Aside from the obvious, how is the first day of school this year going to be different from a normal first day? What have you done or are you doing to make the students to enforce some sort of normalcy?
JH: I still want going back to school to be fun for them! Every first day back to school as I always played games with the kids and had the students get to know each other. They do activities that would encourage trust building and things like that, so I think for my first day of school, I am going to do a super fun, partner-based escape room that they can do digitally with one of their classmates.
The schedule will definitely be different, but I still think it’s important for the students to get to know me and for them to get to know each other as well.
DR: Last question — as a teacher, what’s one piece of advice that you can give to parents in regard to dealing with their child under these circumstances?
JH: As a teacher, my advice to parents would be to be patient and to try your best with your student. We, (the teachers), know that it’s hard and that tele-schooling can get frustrating, and that you have other things going on, and that for some it’s a complete different world for them, but if they are patient and really take an active role in their child’s education, it will be so much better for everyone involved.
Even if you don’t completely understand what your child is doing or the new way we teach things, never hesitate to ask your child’s teachers for help and please work with us, because we would love to work with you!