What is teaching 1st graders like in a pandemic ? (Interview)

 

During the pandemic we have seen what learning and teaching has been like for highschool students this year but what about young children ? Where their educational development is so important in their lives right now ? 

Today I interviewed Laila Brown, a First grade teacher in Arizona on what it has been like teaching young children during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

1. What has been your experience with teaching young children during the pandemic?

My experience teaching young children during the pandemic has been such a unique experience! Although this year has been so difficult for me as a teacher, my students (aged 6 and 7) are so resilient!

 

2. Are the protocols or steps followed to ensure the safety of the children different or altered because they are younger  ?

 Although I am teaching remote right now, I do teach from my building 3 days a week. I have even subbed for some in person classes. When students went to school only 2-3 days a week, there were less students on campus and therefore in the classrooms. With this 2-3 day week for students, all safety protocols were ensured for the younger students. These protocols included masks at all times, 6 foot distances, no touching others or other surfaces. Now that students have gone back to school 5 days a week, my district has tried its best to ensure safety for students but this is difficult because there are more students on campus and in classrooms. As of right now, the protocols for keeping on masks and constantly disinfecting are being followed for younger students’ classrooms

 

3. Do you feel they are benefiting or falling behind in their education  ?

I feel that my students are slightly behind in their education, maybe by a week or two. I know that they are still learning and progressing but it is at a slower rate than a typical year.

 

4. How do you think the lack of interaction has affected them? 

I believe that the lack of interaction has affected my remote students in a few ways. One way I have seen a change is through lack of motivation and excitement for school. Some students have done really well learning online. Some students still have such a love for learning but there are a few students who I have seen a decrease in motivation and excitement without me as a teacher physically being there. Another way I have seen a change is through disappointment with not being able to interact with friends. Students with siblings seem to be doing better with the lack of interaction from school.

 

5. What do you think needs to change in order for the younger children to get what they truly need during this time?

This is a tough question! I believe that students should stop learning in person while this pandemic is still prevalent. The longer we take to stop the spread of the virus, the longer this learning reality remains true for students. Students also need teachers that care and have a love for learning. I’m not talking about teachers who work 10-12 hour days (much like I do), but teachers that have great energy and grace for students and families (much like I do).

 

6. What can people do in order to help teachers during this crisis ?

What teachers really need during this crisis is grace. Teachers are often working way outside of their hours, with constant schedule changes, district changes and the addition of more responsibilities. Families are dealing with the same changes. Understanding that the world is in a pandemic and that this school year is simply going to be different from other school years will be so imperative. With this mutual understanding, teachers and families can work together as a team. Providing each other with grace, we can get through this pandemic together!

 

7. Have you heard ,or witnessed the children’s response to the pandemic? Do they grasp what’s going on ?

I have heard my students say things like “We could be in school if it wasn’t for the virus” or “I would be able to see my grandma if the virus wasn’t here”. I believe they grasp that the pandemic has stopped normal social life and school life. I do not believe they grasp much else such as how many people are affected by this pandemic.

 

8. Has this experience changed your outlook on teaching and education as a whole?

Surprisingly, my outlook on teaching and education has not changed as a whole. I am slightly surprised regarding how districts and states have handled sending students back to in person school. I am not surprised with the responsibilities expected of teachers during this pandemic unfortunately. We as a nation could do better.

 

9. Do you believe this pandemic will shape and alter how the children grow up and perceive the world?

  This is a great question! I believe students will look back at this moment in life much like students look back on 9/11. Something that was really huge, something that they can slightly remember, something with not a lot of hold on their own lives. This could change of course if this pandemic becomes worse or if they personally know someone who has died because of the virus.

 

10. What do you hope to see going forward while teaching 1st graders ? 

I just hope to see a love for learning. I know this year has been so different for my students and I don’t want them discouraged from learning based off of this year.