By Alisha Fields
She took a deep breath and pressed record. How was she ever going to teach Family and Consumer Sciences to her students when she can’t even see them? How would her students be able to do sewing projects, cooking projects and group work? She had so many questions, but she knew she just had to make it work.
Teaching during the Coronavirus pandemic has been hard on all teachers, but imagine how hard it has been for the teachers who have just started out.
Their first year as a teacher has been anything except predictable. The teaching they have to do now is much different from how they learned how to teach.
Delta Middle School FACS teacher Miss Ashtyn Rastetter says she definitely has had an interesting first year. Coronavirus has been especially hard with her class.
“As a middle school FACS teacher, many of the fun activities I had planned to do or wanted to do, such as sewing projects, interior design projects and cooking projects, all had to be tweaked to fit our new normal of social distancing and virtual learning,” she said.
She said she’s had to make accommodations in her classroom to manage. Instead of cleaning the dishes with just soap and water, her students also sanitize them. Students can’t share art supplies, and they have no paper assignments.
She said the education she received at Ball State University gave her a good preparation for all the online work she has to put together, but it is still challenging.
“Honestly, I never expected to be teaching online or recording videos of myself teaching for half of the students quarantined at home,” Rastetter said.
Even with the pandemic she is trying to keep in mind that “ it will not be like this forever, and to just remain positive. The kids want to be here and need to be here, so [I need] to make the most of the time I am given with them.”
Rastetter said since she is not considered “high risk” she doesn’t feel unsafe teaching. However, she tries to be careful around her parents and grandparents, since they are older and at a higher risk.
“I personally have never felt unsafe teaching during this, but I say that because I am younger (22) and healthy,” she said.
Middle school history teacher Mrs. Maddie Fox is also going through her first year of teaching. She agrees that Covid has affected many things within the classroom.
“Because no one has had to [teach] with something like this, there really wasn’t a way for them to prepare us,” Fox said. “I was always taught that group work was very beneficial for students, but Covid has made it very hard for students to learn from one another in class.”
She said the most overwhelming challenge is trying to get her students to do their work.
“It is hard to find ways to motivate students to do their work already at school,” Fox said, “but now (in remote learning) we do not have as much of a connection with each student. So getting some students to turn in work has become a challenge.”
Even with all the challenges, she believes that she has learned more this year than she would in a normal year. She said the main thing she’s had to do was give her students a “mask break.”
“Wearing a mask all day can be hard and exhausting. So letting them stand in the far corner for a mask break can help a student recharge and get back to learning,” Fox said.
She says she tries to give her students grace and hopes they can return it.
There are also some first-year teachers at the high school, such as Algebra teacher Miss Jillian Renbarger. She says that her first year of teaching has been a big challenge, but she is still enjoying it.
“Not only am I getting to do what I love, but I am also learning from my students every day,” Renbarger said.
She said Covid came as a big surprise to everyone.
“I knew it would be challenging, but never would I have imagined a pandemic,” Renbarger said.
She also is taking as many precautionary measures as possible to keep her and her students safe.
“I always try to make sure that I am using hand sanitizer, keeping my distance as much as possible, and ALWAYS wearing my mask when I cross into the students’ space,” she said. “I want to protect not only myself, but others as well.”
She said the biggest challenge has been trying to make enough lessons for her students. “I am doing my best to help my students get everything they need for eLearning. It’s been hard to put together three weeks’ worth of lessons into three days so that my students have paper copies,” she said.
Even with all the unexpected events and challenges she said she is still trying to stay positive.
“I am trying to keep in mind that not everyone has the internet when we go to eLearning. I also keep in mind that EVERYONE is struggling and I am not alone,” Renbarger said.
Another first year teacher is Mr. Adam Lennon, who teaches biology. He said that pandemic restrictions have greatly affected his classes.
“I was always under the assumption that I could be doing activities with students without restrictions like ‘not sharing materials/equipment’ or ‘no group work’,” Lennon said. “This meant a lot of labs/activities that are considered ‘standard’ to a science class were no longer an option.”
Not being able to do hands-on activities and labs has made it much harder for his students as well.
“These alternative activities often have elements of virtual labs which unfortunately do not offer the same degree of engagement with the content as a real in-person lab would,” he said.
Even with a global pandemic, he said the biggest challenge has been what he has endured personally.
“Adjusting to a teacher’s level of mental stamina has been the most overwhelming challenge thus far,” Lennon said. “This doesn’t even have anything to do with the pandemic. It’s just a major adjustment! I have worked longer hours at more physically demanding jobs and still never been as tired as I am on a Thursday evening as a teacher. Nobody can prepare you for this. The pandemic has undoubtedly added to the overwhelming nature of this.”
Even with this crazy year he is still loving the experiences he can have as a teacher.
“In spite of all the changes and challenges my students have been stellar! They have been very adaptable through it all and have done some incredible work for me,” he said.
Along with other teachers, he has been trying to keep positive.
“Last, and arguably most important to keep in mind is that the pandemic is temporary,” he said. “We all need to bear in mind that amazing work to fight this virus is being done all around the world. I have no doubt that humanity will find a way to overcome this virus. We have done it before!”
It is also Mrs. Lorie Crouch’s first year of teaching math. She said that teaching online has been a huge adjustment.
“In the classroom you can look a student in the eyes and see if they understand and they can ask questions immediately if they need help,” Crouch said. “Online, we are so much more restricted and communication takes more time. … I knew it was going to be rough, but not this rough.”
She said the most stressful thing was the lack of time to adjust before going into eLearning, which happened after just four days of school due to a large number of quarantined students. With going into eLearning so early into the year it gave first-year teachers little time to figure out how to use Canvas and other online programs needed for online teaching.
She also said that her pace of teaching has changed.
“I’ve had to go a lot slower and repeat a lot of material,” Crouch said. “Students came in with a deficit from last year so we reviewed a lot in the beginning. I have had to be more flexible with accepting late work and helping students get their work turned in. It has been a season of lots of grace.”
She also said that teachers have provided a great support system.
“I have the most amazing team of teachers in my department. I wouldn’t have made it this far in the year without them,” she said.
All teachers have faced incredible challenges this year with the pandemic, but first-year teachers had no prior reference points. Luckily, they are all trying to stay positive during these tough times.