By Danaé Reid
The impending school year is fast approaching, and as we reach not a second, but a third school year that has been threatened by COVID-19, a lot of people are worried about how the students, teachers, and faculty will navigate through this ongoing crisis.
Last year, I was able to interview teacher Jameela Harris, a special needs educator, about teaching during the pandemic, and was blessed to have her return for another SUN interview to speak about entering into her third year of working under these circumstances.
DR: So, the majority of your teaching experience has been consumed by a global pandemic. I suppose no amount of schooling can prepare you for that. This is your second full school year of teaching during a pandemic, though. What did you learn in the past year that you hope has prepared you for this coming school year? And how do you think schooling will change once we’re no longer in a pandemic?
JH: I think I have found a new level of patience and a deeper understanding of my students and their strengths. I’ve also learned the importance of being technologically literate, and furthermore, I’ve acquired a few new cool tools and tricks to use that really helped me last year! Also, I think schooling will change by classroom set ups, permanently implementing a virtual option and having masks as an option. Also using technology and implementing social distancing policy.
DR: Young kids are naturally anxious and studies show that their attention spans are much shorter than previous generations. This was likely further worsened by the digital aspect of schooling over the past year or so. How do you plan to combat that during this coming school year now that students are going back in person classes?
JH: I’m going to combat their shorter attention spans and heightened anxieties by doing two things: First, to combat their short attention spans, I intend to break up our daily learning routine to include more mindfulness breaks and to incorporate fun, interesting games and lessons to the schedule. Secondly, I will continue to go above and beyond to make my classroom a safe space for all my students and whatever they may be feeling.
DR: What are you most nervous about, going back to in-person schooling? Do you think it’s too soon? Please explain.
JH: I am a little nervous, but I’m mostly excited to meet all of my students and engage with them. I don’t think it’s too early — I honestly am probably most nervous about the fact that the students that I will be teaching this year have not been in a physical school setting since 1st or 2nd grade, so helping them adapt to the new culture will be a challenge.
DR: How was virtual teaching beneficial for you? How was it difficult? Which do you prefer?
JH: I did not have to deal with social behavior issues in the classroom (i.e bullying, negative outbursts etc.), which was great, but it was difficult because my in-person students were able to grasp concepts easier due to the fact that they were able to see me model these concepts face-to-face, whereas my virtual students had more trouble grasping these same concepts because we were not face-to-face and I could not assist them in person.
DR: How do you plan to navigate our current circumstance while also providing a comprehensive education for students?
JH: I’ll provide support and love for all of my students and do my best to give them the best education I possibly can by meeting my students where they are and working with them on an individual level.
DR: How has teaching been made different by the pandemic? Were there any additional training sessions you were required to do?
JH: Teaching during the pandemic was definitely a learning curve. Teaching has been made different by teaching both online and in person, for sure. Adding Zoom and even more technology to the classroom forced me into the student seat as well, because I had to learn about these new websites and technology tools along with my students so that I could be of assistance to them as they were learning as well. I had to take several new trainings that I wasn’t planning to, but they really did help.
DR: What are you most excited about for this upcoming school year?
JH: I am most excited about interacting with my students and getting to know them as people and as learners. I’m looking forward to [seeing] their growth within themselves and I’m excited to watch them learn.
DR: In what ways can school administration, parents, taxpayers, etc. be of service to you during this coming school year?
JH: I would like the community to know and understand that teachers are humans, too. We still need your support, patience and flexibility.
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