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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

OP-ED: What I Learned About Teaching and Learning During the Pandemic

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By Audrienne Roberts Womack

The only classroom I had ever known was the classroom that you walked straight into. The classroom that had four walls, a door, desks, student cubbies, carefully decorated bulletin boards and lots and lots of books, paper, pencils and everything else teachers and students needed to succeed. For much too long I assumed, like everybody else, that this would be the way it would always be.

When I did complain, it was sometimes about not having enough copy paper or having to do playground duty or having too many students in my homeroom. When I celebrated it was often because I had a dynamite lesson plan or a cooperative classroom or a well-deserved evaluation.

When looking back on how things used to be, I often wonder if I should have been more grateful for the good and the not so good struggle, that just came with being a teacher.

Now that I reminisce on how teaching once was, I’m almost in disbelief about how we have evolved in the last few months to where we are today.

Aside from all the Zoom tools and strategies we had to implement and the numerous learning platforms we had to master in a moment’s notice and the uncertainty of how to motivate and engage students virtually, we need to take a moment to applaud ourselves for being resilient and stepping up as teachers, despite our own fears, doubts and bewilderment.

As educators, we have prevailed. We achieved something more phenomenal than we even give ourselves credit for.

During this transformative time that we abruptly found ourselves in, we were still able to encourage and inspire our students into recognizing that no matter what, we wanted them to be victorious. We showed them by example that we were going to show up each and every day and make the best out of an adverse situation.

I got to know myself so much more during this pandemic. So much so, that I welcomed the opportunity to rediscover talents that I didn’t know I had and at the same time acquire new skills I was forced into utilizing. Never before have I felt like a failure and a success simultaneously. Never before have I been challenged into performing outside my comfort zone and pushed to the point of wanting to give it all up.

On the other hand, being passionate about wanting my students to prosper and motivating them to show up day after day, after day. Most of all, trying to be a positive distraction for them, while providing some sense of consistent normalcy while we all try to figure things out together.

I was not only a teacher, I was a learner, taking graduate asynchronous classes while trying to figure out how to keep up with all the new expectations that come with digital learning.

Just like my students I was thrown into an unknown world that I knew nothing about, and once again, just like them, I learned practical skills that I can adapt to other aspects of my life, but most of all I didn’t give up.

Even though the pandemic continues to be an unwanted part of our lives at this moment, I survived my own skepticism and anxiety, giving way to a revived spirit and a keener sense of appreciation for many things, I had once taken for granted.

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