2020 was a hard year for most people. Many people received extra praise for the work they were doing during the pandemic, especially first responders and medical professionals. However, at the beginning teachers were getting some of that love, too. That goodwill quickly dissipated as kids didn’t return to school as quickly as some would have liked. But when schools first switched to remote learning, many parents and leaders were waxing poetic about the “extra” work that teachers were doing to accommodate and engage kids via the internet. Every other day some teacher was going viral on TikTok for dancing or singing on camera to their class.
That was all well and good and much appreciated. But I feel like it is time to let the cat out of the bag: It really wasn’t that hard.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel pretty confident speaking for most teachers in my situation when I say that remote learning was substantially easier for me than in-person teaching … and I personally don’t have any problems teaching in-person.
It WAS different. Everyone had to learn how to use some online platform they had never used before on the fly. People who specialize in in-person communication had to pick up new strategies. Those changes were doable for most people.
The only part that was actually harder was delivering and remediating material because most kids learn better in person. Checking in with students in real time in the classroom is much more effective than the Zoom chat. Most scores dropped because of this. However, most stake-holders had ridiculously low expectations for the students because of the pandemic. In 2020, your admin wasn’t calling you down to the office because a bunch of kids failed your test. So, the lower expectations evened out the increased teaching difficulty, if not completely outpaced it.
In my environment, the part most people struggled with daily is managing behavior. This is virtually non-existent online. First of all, for the most part, only the kids who wanted to be there even showed up. The biggest portion of disrupters self-selected out of the class. The ones who squeaked through had a hard time doing any damage in a Zoom room because of the omnipotence that comes from being the host. If I even suspected you were up to no good, I turned your chat off.
This doesn’t even touch on the fact that I was at home. I rolled out of bed thirty minutes before 8 a.m. which ordinarily would put me on track to be about an hour and a half late to work, and that was plenty of time in this situation. My workday was hours shorter because everything that wasn’t directly related to learning was cut out.
Pandemic teaching only got harder when schools started making teachers responsible for both remote and in-person teaching. Whether the school was making you teach remote and in-person sections separately or simultaneously you were still now crafting lessons for two audiences and also back at work managing behavior and all of that jazz. However, I didn’t count that as remote learning because the part that made it hard was the in-person teaching.
Teachers also were largely spared from the layoffs and pay cuts that people in the private sector were forced to go through. I never lacked job security or wondered where my check was coming from.
Now look, I will gladly accept the flowers and praise for adapting and working hard during the pandemic because I did. With that being said, my job and the job of many teachers actually got distinguishably easier for a short time and for whatever reason the general public did not perceive it that way. As a matter of fact, I suspect one of the reasons schools are having trouble keeping teachers now is because many of them got accustomed to teaching during the pandemic. Unlike other jobs, schools can’t really let people keep working from home.
This isn’t a call to take back the praise you gave to teachers during that time. It is to highlight that the job we do daily is actually harder and much more significant and we should appreciate teachers even when we aren’t in a pandemic.