The Stories Teachers Tell (Covid Edition)
The Story Teachers Tell
The 2020-2021 has taken a toll and the impact is not fully realized. Teachers are strong, resilient, amazingly adaptive, and full of hope – but we are in trauma.
The pandemic left teachers taking on new roles and greater workloads. Educators everywhere stepped up to the plate in inspiring ways, but the truth is there are two (sometimes three) sides to every story. Here is my breakdown of the different stories teachers, including myself, are telling to help us all get through this trying time.
We told these stories to help comfort our community that things would be okay, to let our students know they would not be forgotten, and in some ways to tell ourselves that we could do this – even when we weren’t sure if we could.
The Story Teachers are Telling Others
“Teachers do whatever it takes.”
We said it and we did it. This was seen in teachers teaching through windows, in front yards, over new platforms, and with new methods of reaching students. In parades, over Zoom, on YouTube, and GoogleConnect – teachers discovered ways to make sure students were still learning and perhaps more importantly to make sure students were connected.
This was reported as teachers being heroes – the one true constant in a scary and difficult time. The glue of our society.
Because of this, teachers were celebrated, if only for a moment. But, this is just one side of the story.
The Story We’re Telling Ourselves
“It is my purpose in life to make a difference and that’s what I am meant to do.”
This was seen behind the scenes as teachers spent countless hours tirelessly teaching themselves how to run online classes, structure hybrid learning, record, connect, and communicate in new ways. Educators met and discussed the methods and best practices in unprecedented times – when no one really could say what best practices were. They worked harder, later, longer, to provide the best experience possible for students when they logged in.
Connecting to your purpose is a powerful resilience-building tool (you can read more about that here). But it’s also a double-edged sword in a way because we can walk through fire if we connect it to our purpose and some of us did the equivalent over the past year.
Running yourself into the ground with stress, burnout, and overwork is not how we can leverage our purpose to empower ourselves – it is how we increase an already troublesome teacher attrition trend. But, again this is just another side to the story.
The Real Story
“Not everything is okay.”
We all have different levels of resilience (which can be built – read here if you want to know more) and we all different levels of stress. This past year, I don’t think I am generalizing to say that everyone’s thresholds were tested.
On top of the immense work that teachers throughout the world did to provide their students a semblance of normalcy we also had our own health and the health of our families and loved ones weighing on us. At times it felt like the message was only that kids should be in schools without regard for safety or health. At times it still feels this way in some areas.
It is hard to admit that things aren’t okay – especially when our job, our purpose, our identity is tied to showing up like everything will be fine. This made the past year even more difficult.
The Whole Story
It is too soon to see the toll that this past year has taken on student learning, teacher resilience, retention and attrition in education, and the overall well-being
Let’s stick to what we do know.
We know that teachers need support. They need tools and strategies, and they need us to embrace their whole story.
In order for education to be a desirable and sustainable career for those within and those considering it, we need to provide teachers the tools and strategies to take ownership of their own resilience, to be able to fight burnout, and reclaim their joy in teaching. This starts with open, honest conversations that embrace the whole story – all of them, and continues with targeted professional learning opportunities like these.
Joy in Teaching is here to help in so many ways so that we can end this year strong and make next year a year of redemption and renewal.