Teacher Burnout by Covid

The staff is getting fried mentally and physically.  I am probably doing better than most because with 38 years in the military I am used to stress and change.  I am used to being thrown out of my comfort zone, most of the others are not.  Teachers are creatures of habit.  This is where I teach, this is how I teach, this is what I teach, and I want it to stay that way.  I guess this desire for a stable environment is true for all people.  Last spring when we went remote in two days we seemed OK because we did not have time to think about it.  It was a change for the rest of the school year and they did it.  This year is different.  It feels like we are changing from week to week.  We started out with regular school, just with masks and spreading the students out as much as possible in the rooms.  There were a few kids on remote so teaching style had to change a bit with the needed inclusion of the technology.  They handled it.  The football team played a team that came down with Covid and the football team went remote.  This was about a third of the student body. They came back. The volleyball team went to district and came back with Covid.  In a one day decision we all went remote for the week and a half before Thanksgiving.  There was a scramble.  When we came back from Thanksgiving we knew that the holiday could cause the spread of Covid so we needed to do something.  We had decided that remote was so bad for the students that we did not want to send the whole school into remote for the week after Thanksgiving.  We needed another plan.   We created overflow classrooms.  If there was not enough room in a classroom so kids could be 6 feet apart we would split the class into two rooms and have half be sort of remote.  Empty classrooms and the library would handle the overflow students.  Some of the bigger classes moved everyone into the auditorium or the church next door.  I had to get the tech set up but not a major problem, just time and a lot of leg work.  I hit Walmart for some TVs, some carts, ordered more webcams and tech-wise we were ready to go.  The teachers are struggling.  It is obvious the kids in the overflow rooms are not going to get the same level of instruction as the kids in the live room.  Also finding a teacher or at least an adult to be in the overflow room is a big issue.  Some kids are not mature enough to be unsupervised.

The science teachers are really struggling.  Labs are not possible.  Splitting the class means the overflow kids cannot do a lab but need something to do while the live kids do the lab.  They swap for the next class but now the teacher is having to come up with assignments that the overflow kids can do without guidance.  And they have to come up with lessons for the remote kids.  There are also not enough lab tables to seat all the live kids for a lab so now the teacher is split again.  Kids at lab tables doing one thing, kids at desks doing another and of course there are kids that need constant supervision when dealing with chemicals or sharp knives.  Not good.

Things would be a lot easier if we did not have an extremely professional staff.  We all care about the quality of education these kids are getting during this time and it is not our meeting standards.  The local public schools have made their standards so low that the kids are pretty much losing a year.  It is a solution but not one we as a private school are willing to accept.  As a result most of the teachers are getting fried building course work for a constantly changing situation.  We found out last spring that remote teaching is more work than live.  We now have live, remote and overflow.  Throw the anxiety of what change next week is going to bring on top of that.

Christmas break cannot come soon enough but then there is the issue of what to do after the break.  Should we go completely remote for a week or two?  Stay with the overflow model?  Gamble and just do masks and use a lot of hope?  Our poor principal is on the edge with all of this.

For me I am good with anything.  I have very small classes.  If we go remote one of my classes is done.  They need the high powered computers in my office to do the animation and cinematography project they are working on.  I will give them a grade for what they have done and hope we can pick it up again if we go live before the end of the semester in January.  My Unity 2 class is using the Oculus for their project.  I will just realign the project to regular 3D.  The Python class will be OK.  Meet for a while each class period and then let them go.  The Intro to Programming will be tricky, they are less comfortable with programming and working remotely but they are sharp kids and we will figure it out.  Troubleshooting for all my programming classes will become a major headache but it is survivable.  

A quote attributed to Charles Darwin, but which he did not say, seem pretty appropriate, 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Here is to hoping we can adapt.

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