COVID has helped me become a better teacher
Despite the fear and the chaos, I've learned how to be better for my students.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. My mother has told me stories of how I used to take all my toys - my Barbie dolls, my baby dolls, and all my stuffed animals - and read to them. My favorite game to play was school, even when I was a teenager with a child of my own. When people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would never hesitate to tell them that I wanted to be a teacher.
After changing my mind at least a hundred times (okay, it was really only three times) while I was at community college, I decided that teaching public school wasn’t for me; there was just something missing. I had a moment where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do: if I didn’t teach public school, how was I going to get my dream job? It was a shock to my system when one of my professors looked at me and said, “Sara, why don’t you become a college professor?” With a new plan - and one that truly fit my dreams - I pushed through to get my Bachelors degree and my Masters.
In the fall of 2019, I was offered a position as an English professor at the university where I’d obtained my degrees. I was beyond honored and absolutely ecstatic. This was what I’d always wanted, what I’d been working toward, and I was being offered the chance to show what I was capable of. My first semester, of course, was a lot of me fumbling through and trying to figure out what, exactly, I was doing. I needed to take the time to build my classroom environment and ensure that my classroom was inclusive and a safe place for my students. By the end of that first semester, I felt more confident in my abilities as a professor.
When I walked into my classroom at the start of the spring semester, I was ready. I was confident. Things started out better than I could have expected, and I was excited to keep things rolling as they were. And then our nation fell victim to a global pandemic. COVID-19 forced our campus to move to remote learning, and within the span of one week I was thrust into the world of online teaching - something I had very little knowledge about. I’d be lying if I said that the transition was smooth and seamless, and I’d be lying if I said that I put forward the absolute best content for my students. But I did my best, given the circumstances, and by the end of the semester, I’d learned something extremely, extremely important.
COVID-19 pushed me to be a better educator.
I learned so much through the experience of being thrown into the world of online learning, and I intend to take what I learned over those last few months with me as I start my third semester as a professor. I learned how to better integrate technology into my classroom and how to ensure that my students were always able to easily and smoothly navigate our online community. I also learned how to better communicate with my students and how to manage my time better. I found new ways to integrate discussion posts and articles that I hadn’t thought to include in my classroom prior to being online. Despite the messy flow of the end of the semester, my students told me that they were still learning the material and they still felt as though they had a successful semester with me.
The pandemic has caused a lot of stress and fear in students, parents, and teachers alike. No one is sure what to expect as COVID cases continue to fluctuate. It would be a lie to say that I’m not feeling stressed or nervous about walking back onto campus at the start of the semester, but I am taking our campus’ decisions in stride. I am taking what I’ve learned from last semester and attempting to create an inclusive and comfortable online space for my students, and I am allowing myself to feel the stress and the fear. When the start of the semester rolls around, I’m going to take a long, deep breath and do everything I can to be the best professor I can be and do everything I can for my students.