Coronavirus Trampled My First Year As A Teacher, But Taught Me The Meaning Of Resilience

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Covid-19,

I would start this letter with ‘dear’ – but there is nothing beloved about you.

You are brutal. You have taken innocent lives, torn families apart and shaken up our daily routines. The severe disruption you have caused around the world is mind-blowing.

It’s been over six weeks since we had to close our academy in Lincolnshire. Six frustrating and emotional weeks spent teaching from the confinement of my home, isolated in one of the most rural and least affluent areas in the East Midlands. 

As a trainee teacher, you have robbed me of finishing my first year in school with my students. My first year will always be the year you have so unfairly stained. It will always be the year that I had to say goodbye to students and colleagues within hours, not knowing when I would see them again. 

I had to say goodbye to my Year 11 form group with a heavy heart, wishing them the best of luck in all their endeavours. I tried to smile, stay positive, and ensure them it was all going to be alright. I wanted to say I will see you soon, but I couldn’t. The uncertainty that lingered in the air was crippling. And it still is.

I miss the four walls of my colourful classroom. I miss celebrating the small successes and the big leaps with my pupils...

I miss the four walls of my colourful classroom. I miss celebrating the small successes and the big leaps with my pupils. I miss catching up with colleagues, and I genuinely miss the highs and lows that teaching brings. 

Now because of you, instead of sweet smiles, warm hellos and cheeky comments, I sit alone talking into my laptop, staring at a screen – nervously waiting for a reply on the other end. While most are engaging with this new way of learning, I haven’t heard much from some of my students in weeks. My work life now consists of answering emails, looking up login details and sorting technological difficulties, while simultaneously trying to teach engaging live lessons from my home and figure out where to upload tasks. 

It’s not what I signed up for. But at least you’ve given me time to reflect. You’ve shown me how passionate I am about teaching, and that I miss my kids and my classroom more than I ever thought I would. 

I started my teaching journey with the education charity Teach First, just over a year ago. Before then I had no idea of how unfair education could be in Britain. While completing my master’s degree in teaching English as an additional language, I discovered the Teach First Training Programme – which recruits and trains people to become teachers in areas serving disadvantaged communities. 

Although I despise coronavirus, I appreciate these strange circumstances for helping me to realise how much my kids and this profession means to me

Asked to teach in Boston – a place I didn’t know existed before – I soon realised the challenges rural areas in this country can face: as schools in less affluent and isolated areas can struggle to attract staff and it’s our kids that suffer as a result. Those challenges are maximised in these circumstances – as pupils can feel unmotivated while isolated at home, or worse – don’t have the tools or an appropriate environment for home learning.

But that’s what keeps me going: the want to stick around for my pupils, the want to make a difference to their education. And nine months into my first year, despite the current circumstances leaving me feeling more solitary than ever before – I can confidently say that I have made the right decision. Thanks to my pupils, school and Teach First community in my area, my resilience and courage has grown immensely from moving here. 

In spite of all this tragedy and anxiety we’re facing, we must think of the silver linings – the resilience we have to adapt and come out of this situation stronger. This is not the time to overwhelm students. This is the time to show them we’re still here. It’s the time to keep learning engaging and fun. To support our pupils and their parents as they realise how critical, yet challenging education is. 

So, Covid-19, although I despise you for all you have done, I appreciate these strange circumstances for helping me to realise how much my kids and this profession means to me. It’s something us teachers all need to hang onto – until we’re back in our classrooms again.

Regards,

Just one (of many) resilient teacher

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