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Daily life of a teacher during quarantine


Blair English teacher Lisa Fox starts her days in quarantine between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. Instead of driving to Blair in the morning like she would under normal circumstances, she lifts weights or goes on a run. She also hosts classes for her neighborhood friends to get a workout in. Then, she settles down in her office space at home and gets to work: responding to emails, planning lessons, and meeting with students via Zoom. She likes to cap off a normal day in quarantine in the kitchen, as she regularly makes dinner for herself, her husband, and her two daughters. For Fox, the overall decrease in activity wrought by quarantine has alleviated some anxiety. “I don't have that frantic stress that I had taken on too much this year,” she says. 

However, Fox laments the shift to the online education system, which she feels has not produced adequate learning. Fox averages at least three hours of Zoom calls a day, trying to engage with her students or their parents, in an effort to keep students motivated. “I feel like [online education makes] kids disheartened about just the whole learning environment,” she says. 

For teachers like Fox, quarantine has provided opportunities to try new things and spend more time on hobbies. But many teachers also worry about their students amid the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by news journal Education Week, 60 percent of teachers say students are less engaged with their classes, and at least one fifth of students are absent. And concern amplifies around the 2020-21 academic year, as 70 percent of teachers surveyed said that they are planning for multiple scenarios for the 2020-21 school year.

New activities  

Morgan Patel, an AP Human Geography teacher, has used her extra time in quarantine to practice her Spanish, painting, and baking. Pursuing these new hobbies, she explains, has allowed her to gain further mental clarity. “I could paint and listen to a book on tape at the same time, and it stimulates my brain and doesn't make me feel like I'm in quarantine,” she says. Patel notes that conversations with her students in a physical setting used to help to animate her brain.


Courtesy of Morgan Patel

Additionally, Patel has been able to spend more time with her two dogs, Atlas and Zahra, and her two cats, Savage and Bulleitt. She gets to wake up with them, feed them, and take her dogs for longer afternoon walks. “I'm a little nervous for when we go back to normal [because] they're used to us being home,” she says. All of her pets had an adjustment period, in which they were confused that Patel was home all the time. “It probably took like two weeks for them to realize, like, they wake up with me and get fed by me,” she says. 

Courtesy of Morgan Patel

Fox, on the other hand, has taken this time to help others in need. With her newfound time, she babysits her neighbor’s infant. “[My neighbor] works full time and her baby [can't] go to daycare,” Fox says, “so I've been trying to help her because I think that no mommy can do that. It's just… unrealistic.” 

Fox has also been able to work out with her parents a few times a week. Her father, a doctor who has owned a practice for 50 years, has a back condition which causes him to hunch forward, so these workouts have been able to help him. “The pandemic allowed me more time to be with my parents and help them,” she says. “I can help my dad try to stand up tall and have [my parents] not give up.”

During these difficult times, Fox has also taken extra care in planning new lessons and helping her students. She takes time to host college essay sessions with her AP Language students and even asks other students to approve lessons before she posts them. “I was so concerned at how it would appear for a student,” she says. “I would ask a couple of my high flying students to review the slides for me.”

Keith Anderson, another Blair English teacher, explains that he hasn’t been able to keep a firm schedule. He has sometimes found trouble with finding motivation for work, and says that he and his wife schedule their activities around each other. “It's been much harder [to be] productive than I thought it would be when this all started,” Anderson says. 

Anderson thinks that his most memorable part of quarantine so far has been witnessing the youth involvement within the Black Lives Matter movement. He attended one of the protests in D.C. with his wife on June 5 and June 6 and was struck by the number of students demonstrating. “[My wife and I] felt like we were the oldest people around us,” Anderson says. He thinks that the strong youth turnout goes to show the power that youth have with supporting important issues. “Young people especially have a way of identifying what kind of matters,” he says. 

Concerns

Although some teachers are happy with their newfound time, concerns about their students remain. “So many kids have emailed me saying, you know, this is really tough,” Patel says. 

With the coronavirus limiting learning and student engagement, many teachers have no way to check in on unresponsive students who could be in danger, which is worrying for many teachers. “So many students are clearly suffering with mental health, from not being able to talk to teachers [to] students being stuck at home by themselves,” Patel says. “I think the whole country's outlook is changing about the importance of teachers and the school for providing more than just teaching.”

Anderson worries about students missing so much instruction. “We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking [distance learning] is in any way replacing the real education that kids [were] getting,” he says. He thinks that a long-term disruption in education will have serious ramifications. “There's just all this expert testimony that says that every bit of schooling that kids miss now, especially elementary school kids...can't be made up,” he says. “That will be like a society-wide deficit.”

New outlooks

When Patel returns to teaching in the classroom, she says she’ll be more cognizant of her student’s needs. As an AP teacher, she is already experienced in planning complex lessons, but this time has helped her to consider students’ needs and circumstances outside the classroom to a greater degree. 

Patel explains she will seek to forge stronger connections with her students when she returns to a classroom setting “I would spend more time doing community building and building relationships than I would in the classroom,” she says. “Because now you never know what could happen, and I think it's way more important to have that relationship with [my students].”

Anderson says that he’ll value his time with his students more when he returns to the classroom. “You miss it on an emotional level,” he says. “Just… saying something and having 30 people react to it, even if they're reacting in a way that's like, ‘Ah, I can't believe this.’” To Anderson, the interaction with students is one of the most valuable things about teaching. “It makes you feel like a real person.”

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