COVID-19: A First Year Teacher Perspective

getty

Kathryn Getty at #KDPconvo19

Kathyrn Getty is a first year educator in New Jersey and a recent graduate of Kean University. She joined the Delta Rho Chapter of KDP in April 2018.

The 2019-2020 school year is my first year of professional teaching.

Going into my first year of teaching, fresh out of college, I was a mix of emotions.

I knew it was going to be difficult and that it was going to be a learning experience.

However, I never expected my first year of teaching to include a pandemic, resulting in remote learning.

Being a first grade teacher in an urban community, I have students who cannot readily access a tablet or computer and those who do not have internet.

The practicality of using a platform such as Google Classroom just wasn’t feasible for our demographic of students.

So, we spent hours upon hours printing packets that contained two weeks’ worth of instruction for ELA, math, science, and social studies.

The lack of printers in the building proved to be a huge issue.

In order for other grade levels to print out their materials, I volunteered to head to Office Depot and print the remainder of the packets that we were unable to complete at the school. Thank goodness, I had the KDP discount. Because of that, I saved $364.83!

The day before remote instruction began, parents had the entire day to come in and pick up their child’s materials.

Their materials consisted of two packets from the lead teacher, each consisting of one week’s work. In addition to that, work was also sent home for specials and my five gifted and talented students, and my seven ELLs were provided supplemental materials from the ELL teacher. Once the students had everything they needed, remote instruction was ready to begin on March 18th.

My main source of communication with the parents is Class Dojo, an application that parents can download on their smartphone or use on the computer. On Class Dojo I am able to post reminders, direct-message parents, and award points to students as an incentive. For weeks one and two, I recorded the students’ attendance if they answered a question I asked about their work for that day on their Class Dojo portfolio. In addition to Class Dojo, I also created an account with Splash Learn for students to get supplemental math practice, and I have been assigning students reading assignments through Raz-Kids.

One word that would describe my remote-learning experience is flexibility.

Many parents are essential workers and are unable to work with their children or contact me during the day. As a grade-level team, we decided to have the attendance question due by 9:00PM in order to accommodate those parents.

I have noticed that empathizing with the parents and remaining in constant communication helps put them at ease and allows the remote learning process to run more smoothly.

Most recently, our administration has told us to begin running Zoom sessions so that we can interact with our students and teach/answer questions in real time.

Being able to interact with my students has made me feel like a teacher again.

This situation is not ideal; however, I have learned more about adaptability and patience than I ever thought I would.

To know that others are dealing with the same scenario has shown me just how supportive and connected the teaching community is.

convowjoe

Members of the Delta Rho Chapter with Joe “Mr. D” Dombrowski at #KDPconvo19

The Delta Rho chapter of KDP has begun a weekly “teachers lounge,” where officers and members log into Zoom to talk about our successes, struggles, ask for advice, and socialize “face to face”.

My favorite part about KDP has always been the connections and closeness of our chapter. A pandemic has not stopped us from socializing appropriately or growing as professionals. Even though we do not know when this pandemic will end, I am put at ease knowing that I have the support of my co-workers and Delta Rho chapter.

When we return to the classroom, I am confident that this whole experience will have made me a better teacher.

COVID-19: A Substitute Teacher’s Perspective

LizTaylorLiz Taylor, a 2019 Daytona State College graduate, has weathered a significant numbers of ups-and-downs in her short life. She recently wrote about how her chapter supported her recovery after a life altering accident. (link to blog). She’s currently serving as a substitute teacher for Daytona-area schools.

Phew! It was Thursday, March 12th, the day before Spring Break.

I spent the day at Bunnell Elementary in Flagler County, Florida.

I had already gone tumbling down half a flight of stairs while walking my students to lunch, so I was looking forward to what I thought would only be a week off school.

All the students in the class I was teaching that day were freaking out about the Covid 19 pandemic that’s been spreading around the world. I reassured them the best I knew how to.

Little did they know, I was scared, too.

I knew that we all deserved a week to relax away from school. Little did I know we’d be off much longer than that.

I had just arrived home from work that afternoon when the news broke. The Florida Department of Education was extending Spring Break for Central Florida students by one week to slow the spread of the virus in Florida. “Hmm… okay. I’ll manage,” I said to myself as I walked over to my refrigerator to check my work week schedule. You see, I had just graduated from Daytona State College’s School of Education that past spring with my Bachelors in Elementary Education. Unfortunately, there weren’t any full-time positions available. I was substitute teaching for the time being.

Then, as time went on, the virus continued to spread. “Social distance,” we were told. Then, the DOE told everyone that two weeks would be turned into four and then eight, and that the full-time teachers would start to plan for computer-based “distance learning.” “Oh, no!” I said, as the panic started to set in. A lump started to form in my throat. “I guess online learning doesn’t leave districts with the need for substitute teachers,” since Florida teachers would be working from home. I would be left jobless.

I took the easiest first step I could think of and I started looking for jobs teaching virtual school through Florida Virtual School. They weren’t hiring elementary teachers, either. I jumped on my computer and started reaching out to people at my district, letting them know that I was free, certified, endorsed, and willing and able to work anywhere they needed me. Then, I emailed the principals and assistant principals of the county’s five elementary schools and relayed the same message. Everyone reached back out to me, thanking me for my willingness to help, and told me that they’d reach out to me if they needed me. I’ve done all that I can for the time being. Now, my responsibility is to keep myself busy while keeping myself and my family safe.

I reached out to a couple of working moms that I know and let them know that I was free and available to help their kids with any online learning that they needed help with. It’s important to stick together during these times of uncertainty. I might not know what’s next as far as my career goes, but what I do know for sure is that we will eventually be back in classrooms in front of students at some point. Just because I don’t have any work doesn’t mean I want to be away from kids. If I can help a couple of local families during this time of uncertainty, I’d be glad to.
I wasn’t planning to be starting my career as a teacher during a global pandemic, much less as a substitute teacher without job security.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about viruses, it’s that they don’t care what your plans are for the year. They do not take into consideration jobs, after-school activities, substitute teachers and others being left without jobs, or the thousands of students around the nation who would be left without a classroom to go to for an undetermined amount of time.

Learning will still happen. Together, we can get through this.

As for me, for now I will continue supporting my fellow teachers while daydreaming about a future classroom and class of my own next school year.

COVID-19: A Professor’s Perspective

Cosco-TaraTara Cosco, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education at Milligan College. She has been a KDP member for more than 20 years and serves as the Counselor of the Alpha Iota Iota Chapter.

 

 

Initially, when we heard about the Coronavirus, the college was on spring break, so to be honest I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I was enjoying my time off.

Then, the college announced we had an extra week of spring break.

Naturally, I reacted joyfully. I took long walks in the park with my co-worker and enjoyed the extra time off from work.

Then, the college announced we needed to transition to online teaching for the rest of the semester.

What? I better look into what this is truly all about. The college is one of the last places to close. When public schools close, we tend to stay open if at all possible, so this must be serious, I thought.

I wasn’t too worried about the transition to teaching online. One of my classes was already online, and most of my materials are housed online anyway.

The first week of online teaching was okay. I added assignments to make up for the in-class work I would have typically given them. I wasn’t feeling the stress I assumed some of my other colleagues were, because I love technology and use it often anyway.

Then, we had an area meeting, and the realities of what others were facing became apparent.

My chair talked about the students’ fears about graduation and how they would finish the hours needed in the schools as a student teacher and intern. We were told many of the mentor teachers were now having to homeschool their own children and at the same time teach their students. Spouses were out of work and tensions were high. My heart started to ache for the students who dreamed of their senior year with friends and their graduation celebration. The moment they had all worked so hard for was now something that we feared would not happen.

The second week of class in quarantine, I decided to hold a Zoom meeting and allow students to gather together virtually if they could. I allowed those who were unable to attend the virtual class to watch the replay later.

I was thrilled to see my students’ faces again! I had missed them terribly!

This pandemic had taught me that there was a lot in this world I took for granted. I took for granted the everyday conversations, interactions with colleagues, students, friends, and family. We held class as usual, only through a screen instead of in person. It worked well! I was pleased with the technology, the ability to share my screen, and interact as if we were in an actual classroom.

It is now early April, and we are starting a month-long lockdown.

I am missing my colleagues, students, friends, and loved ones terribly!

I miss eating out, social gatherings, a friendly hug. The news tells of projected deaths and times are scary.

I hope everyone stays safe and we return to normal soon with an attitude of gratitude.

For e-learning resources and a community of peers, visit KDP’s website at http://www.kdp.org.

Staying Rooted in Education

As a KDP Youth Representative, I had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the UN titled, “A Grassroots Approach to Education for All.”

The moderator, Alexander Wiseman, and speaker Lisa Damaschke-Deitrick were from Lehigh University’s education program. Their fellow speakers were Anwar Sayed from the Dayemi Foundation, Taylor Viens from Caring for Cambodia, and Jadayah Spencer representing the International Youth Leadership Institute.

As each person shared their experience with grassroots organizations, they connected to the importance of health and wellness. Health screenings and access to meals can transform the culture of learning to be responsive to the needs of students.

Furthermore, research presented at the briefing proved that funding new educational approaches results in shifts in curriculum and assists in combating poverty.

With political and religious turmoil displacing refugees, it is imperative that they receive a quality education that is inclusive and sensitive to their knowledge and cultural backgrounds.

As expressed by the speakers, partnering with local organizations within communities such as religious centers and non-governmental agencies can offer real-world experiences for our youth, as well as promote positive learning environments.

My Tips for This Approach

1. Know Your Neighbors

Get to know the people in your community. Seek out local businesses and organizations that are interested in helping us achieve our goal of providing an equitable education for all.

2. Brainstorm

Think of ways that you can support a student’s hygiene and diet at your school, such as items like toothbrushes and soap. A resource such as a school-wide food pantry would also be effective.

3. Be Active!

Encourage students to be problem solvers in their own communities. Simple tasks such as cleaning up parks and recycling can prepare them for bigger roles in society.

Happy Teaching,
Clairetza Felix

Clairetza Felix is a senior at St. Francis College, with a major in Childhood Education and a concentration in English. Currently, she serves as the Co-Event Coordinator for the Xi Rho Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi. As an aspiring Literacy Specialist, she chose to become a UN Youth Representative to offer a unique approach to education.

The Power of Teaching to Make a Difference

Hello! My name is Marisol, I am an elementary school teacher and an instructor at my local state university. Let me just say that it is great to be able to be a part of this blog and share my experiences with you.

photo-on-2013-04-07-at-00-03Before I go further, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

First of all, I have known since FOR-EV-ER that I loved to teach. I played “teacher” nearly everyday with my little brother and sister (they were my first guinea pigs… I mean students). I also recruited our upstairs neighbors to be part of our escuelita (Spanish for little school). I had a total of four students. I was pretty sophisticated in my teaching approaches.

Of our three-bedroom apartment, one room was completely dedicated to escuelita. I had four little tables, little chairs, a black board, desk, and a real grade book. My mother had used her financial aid money to purchase the grade book at her campus university.

I gave her dittos that I made and asked her to make copies for me at her school. I created songs, a class schedule, and even differentiated instruction!

My students were different ages—my sister and her friend (our neighbor) were five. Her brother was seven, and my brother was nine. My brother has Down Syndrome, so I had to make his work specifically designed for him. So, in a way, I was also doing classroom inclusion.

Escuelita lasted many years. I learned a lot and so did my “students”. Those students and their families are now long-time friends.

Fast forward many years, and here I am now—a teacher and an instructor in the field I love the most: education!

It seems however, that teaching and going to school, are not as “fun” as it use to be.

As society changes, so do our schools, our students, and our communities.

As teachers, we keep running this way and that way just to keep up with the tides of change. And oh gosh… the pressure! The pressure we face on a daily basis coming from so many directions. We don’t get enough time to decently plan our lessons, make copies, get ready for class, grade, or even EAT!

Woah. Just thinking about the daily responsibilities of a teacher is overwhelming because only a teacher knows the dynamic ways in which we are called to function. This takes a toll on us physically and emotionally.

I am writing this blog post because I want to share with you a story that has helped me navigate my six years of teaching and to remain passionate about my calling (job).

The school I first worked at is located near the Mexican-U.S. border. The whole school qualifies for free lunch. It is in a low-socioeconomic area. The school serves about 1,300 students. I say all this to give the reader some context instead of creating a pity attitude towards the population in this area. I feel like I need to bring this issue to the forefront of my discussion because there are many that have unconscious or conscious biases about students and their families who are labeled as low-socioeconomic.

While there are a ton of things that I could talk about in my experiences at this school, I am going to focus on parent involvement.

This is because I recently had a colleague say, “Oh, I wish I could engage the parents to advocate for their children and to develop an understanding about the expectations of how children have to act in school.”  The school that my colleague works at is in a high poverty area. There is violence at the school, sometimes against the teachers themselves.

I can only imagine the type of feelings this teacher is experiencing. There are so many different layers to these problems.

Let me just say that I do not assume to know all the answers or even all the “layers” to the problems. What I can share is my perspective and ideas about difficult environments in teaching.

When I first got hired, I rented an apartment near the school I would be working at. I wanted to live in the same neighborhood as my students.

I am so glad that I did, because I grew so much professionally and personally.

20140211_163333_16793011447_oMy first year teaching, I taught second grade, and in this class, I has a student named Awesomekid (yes, I obviously changed his name for the purpose of this blog). When Awesomekid came to my class, he could not read or even write his name (his real name is 5 letters long). He had already been retained in first grade. Some teachers suspected a learning disability. They would say things like, “Oh yeah, Awesomekid’s mom does not care. She has like four other kids, and they are all the same. She never comes to any of the meetings”.

Awesomekid’s behavior was also a big problem. He often got into fights at school and talked back to teachers. When he was sent to the office and administration called home, there was usually no answer. Administration was all too familiar of Awesomekid and his family.

You see, although most teachers and administration knew Awesomekid and his family, they did now know him or his family. Awesomekid was a fellow neighbor of mine because we both lived in the same apartments. I developed a relationship with all my students—Awesomekid especially, because of how often I saw him. I learned so much about him just from what I saw after school.

First of all, his mother worked two jobs—yes TWO jobs. His older sibling was in charge of watching her other brothers and sisters. She was a freshman in high school.

Awesomekid was ALWAYS outside. This explained why he did not bring in his homework or it was not complete. There was sometimes not anyone to help Awesomekid after school. If I saw him playing outside I always asked him if he had done his homework. He knew that if he needed help, he could always ask. Awesomekid rarely asked for help, though. I had tutoring after school and he would get most of his work done there.

Other students of mine also lived at the apartments, or very nearby. There were times I had many students and their little siblings come knocking at the door to say hi. If the ice-cream truck happened to pass by at the same time I would get ice-cream for all of them (now that I think about it those coincidences may not have been coincidences). I loved sitting on the curb talking to all of them and eating ice-cream.

I taught him how to read and write (this could be a whole other blog because this journey was also beautiful).

Awesomekid’s grades and behavior improved dramatically.

I also got to know his mother. We became friends. It was obvious that she cared very much for her children. She later confided in me and shared that she had never really felt welcomed at school. While we spoke about different topics, the one thing that she always told me was how thankful she was about all the work I had done with Awesomekid.

Contrary to the school’s narrative, Awesomekid’s mom cared—she cared very much.

img_3241I believe this is one of the many lessons that I learned through teaching.

Sometimes we may perceive that parents don’t care because they do not participate in school activities. We expect parents to come to school functions, to be “involved” in their student’s academic development; we want to see the parents volunteer, to pick-up or drop off their kids. If we don’t see these, we then counter with ideas of uncaring parents.

In this case, Awesomekid’s mom worked two jobs, and she could rarely attend school functions. Most of the time, she was too busy to even help her kids with homework and relied on the older siblings to help the younger ones. Despite all this, she was a very loving mother, and she sacrificed so much to make sure her children had a place to live and food to eat.

What scared me the most about this experience is the thought of, “What if I had never gotten to know Awesomekid’s mom?” or, “What if I never knew about Awesomekid’s living conditions?”

These thoughts terrify me because they make me realize that I might have misjudged Awesomekid’s mother in a very unfair way. I would have been so absorbed in my beliefs that I would have unintentionally set lower academic standards for Awesomekid. I wanted the parents to come to the school and be present in the school, and hear what the school had to say instead of the teacher—ME—going to the parents, making house visits, listening what the parents had to say.

The power of teaching works both ways.

The first is the power that we, as teachers, have to make an impact on a student’s life. The second—and for me the most beautiful—is the power that teaching can have on our own way of thinking.

While each of us will face different obstacles in our teaching career, let us remember that our calling is a noble one and one that has great power to make a difference.

I know that the times I felt like quitting (seriously, I thought about just walking out the door sometimes), I felt afraid, I felt frustrated, and I felt unappreciated.

During those moments, my strength came from thoughts of students such as Awesomekid. His smile, him writing his name, him reading, and him coming to visit every school year.

That renews my passion and somehow gives me the strength to continue in this field and love it more each day.

Facing the Grad Student Blues?

Anna Quiznio-ZafranAnna Quinzio-Zafran is the Chair of the National Graduate Student Committee for Kappa Delta Pi.

As we approach the end of the spring semester, graduate students around the country are trying to put the finishing touches on one of any number of major projects. There are moments when you might think that you just want to go and hide, but remember that your professors, mentors, and even colleagues were once in this same stage of grad school. They felt just the way you are feeling now.

It’s important to find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Across the nation are graduate students who feel just as you do.

Thanks to all of the KDP members who took time out of their busy schedules to join the National Graduate Student Committee at our Coffee Klatch on Saturday, April 23. There was great discussion about how, when we get together to share our perspectives on how different people approach various challenges, we are able to reflect on which strategies we might apply to our own particular situations and circumstances.

We would like to offer you the tips, resources, and challenges that we shared at our first Coffee Klatch. Click here to download those.

However, the best tip that we can leave with you is to remember that you are not alone… KDP members are always there to support, encourage, commiserate with, and motivate one another.

If you are in need of this support/encouragement, please access our community on KDP’s members-only online network, KDP Global. We would love to welcome you with open arms into our community. If you need help accessing this community, please contact membership@kdp.org.