Challenges and Triumphs Await
Whether we have been teaching science for one year or forty years, 2020–21 will be the most complex school year of our careers. Never before have we faced such challenges in terms of our teaching methods, health concerns for ourselves and our students, and the enormous decisions going into planning and executing the year. Virtual. Remote. Hybrid. Synchronous. Asynchronous. Zoom meeting rooms. Google meets. Microsoft Teams. Jamboard. Flipgrid. Nearpod. The list is never ending.
If we are teaching remotely, how do we ensure the safety of students who may be experiencing trauma (physical and emotional abuse, drug addiction, incarcerated parents, etc) while they are at home, if a home even exists? We also face numerous challenges to keep our classrooms and lab spaces sanitized, safe, and compliant with NSTA’s safety guidelines if and when face-to face instruction resumes. There must be a safe answer for all those involved. As a result, we must seek solutions that are a win-win for all those concerned.
I realize these challenges seem insurmountable. I receive multiple emails a day suggesting the newest, latest remote technology for use in our classrooms and am feeling increasingly overwhelmed with all the possibilities. I want to do it all. But, as we all know, we must realize we are human and cannot employ every bit of technological assistance that comes our way. Our brains simply cannot handle all the decisions we are trying to make during this time.
I see via social media how science teachers are embracing many forms of technology to prepare innovative, creative science experiences for their students. The issue is that we are preparing three sets of lesson plans for all remote, hybrid, and face-to-face teaching situations. The amount of work surpasses that of any other profession. I don’t want to see teachers broken from all that is expected of them. We are the ones paying for sanitizers. We are the ones paying for the technologies we are using at home to prepare the lessons. We are the ones who pay for extra food and necessities for those students who come to us with empty stomachs and broken hearts. We are the ones paying an estimated $1,000 per year out-of- pocket expenses.
Given our mission, we must exercise caution. We must take care of ourselves. We must not be on 24/7 even though that is what seems to be expected. We must set boundaries. Remember teaching as an apple cart. Each day we distribute apples to our students. We give, and give, and give. If we don’t replenish the apple cart, then we won’t be able to give any more. So, take time for meditation, yoga, exercise, knitting, artwork, music, reading, hiking in nature or whatever feeds your soul.
We are explorers charting unknown territories this fall. No, we cannot hold classes outside as they did in 1918 but we can embrace each new teaching day in the best way possible. Remember, NSTA is there for YOU. We support you. We applaud you. And, we always want to meet your needs as best as we can.
Good luck during these unprecedented times. And, remember, it isn’t what you teach but how students remember how they felt when they were amidst your presence that matters.
Ann Haley Mackenzie (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor of The Science Teacher.