What to expect when the unexpected is the norm: 3 lessons learned during COVID-19

By Lydia R. Glover

A phrase that my mom uses a lot is “we are in a WHOLE pandemic” — and that is the perfect way to describe my last 12 months.

It was around this time last year that the unexpected happened, and the government decided that in order for us to be safe we could not leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary. That meant schools had to be moved to 100% online. Here we are, almost 365 days later, and we are still dealing with some of the remnants of the “whole pandemic.” Nearly every minute of my school day is spent dealing with some unexpected effect of this pandemic. It’s an all-consuming time where my students need more from me than ever before, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

But I am still here making it work, and I want to share three things I have taken away from the “whole pandemic.”

Give grace!

In 2020 the lives of educators everywhere were turned upside down. We went from teaching inside a classroom and being engaged with our students to not seeing them in-person for months. No one could have predicted the entire world was going to shut down in the blink of an eye!

When it happened, I was in my first year teaching kindergarten and still learning how to teach inside the classroom. How was I supposed to suddenly take everything and move it online? I convinced myself I had to be perfect because I did not want my students to fall behind. But as we all know, technology is hit or miss.

Some days, I was able to upload a lesson in five minutes. On other days, it took 24 hours and was made even slower because the online platform was bogged down with too many people trying to do the exact same thing. I was beyond stressed, but then I realized — all of this is out of my control. I could only change what I have control over, and I had to keep reminding myself that I can only do so much. I was being so hard on myself and not even remembering that I was in my first year of teaching and had certainly never done it online. Why stress and struggle to work it out on my own when I could ask for help from others around me who had done it before? We never have to be perfect, but we always have to give it a shot!

Be flexible and open to change.

At any given time, things can be changed. Seasons change, time changes, and even plans change. Knowing that changes happen whether I want them to or not helped me stay calm during the past year. Government officials are constantly changing their minds about opening up the state or closing down the schools. Having a plan in case things shut down again is helpful. I always think, “In the worst-case scenario, is this something I can bring to an online platform? Is this something someone can understand if I am not present to help them?”

As a kindergarten teacher I am constantly switching things up in the moment. I am constantly on my toes because you never know what can happen, but I always have a plan. You’ll never catch me slipping.

Find ways to stay engaged.

We are no longer able to see friends and families the same way we used to, but that does not mean we no longer engage with them. I am very family oriented. My family used to do movie nights every week at AMC. Now, with the pandemic, we are really into those viewing parties! We are still watching the same movie together, and even though it may not be in person, it helps with the distance. There are so many different online programs that can help shorten the distance between friends and families. Find the one that works for you!

The same rules apply when it comes to teaching; not everything you do on Zoom with your students has to be academic. Something that I have done in the past to give my students the opportunity to engage with each other is hosting Virtual Community Circles at the end of the school day. The students did not have to attend the community circles, but those that did really enjoyed seeing their friends’ faces. I have also done “viewing” parties with GoNoodles, where my students would get up and show me their best dance moves! For those of you with older students, there are virtual escape rooms that could even promote group work. It is all about keeping the students engaged both academically and socially. We cannot totally cut them off from each other — we have to give them opportunities to still be kids.

We are in a “whole pandemic” and it is very easy to get wrapped up in all the negatives, but I hope each of you can find ways to let yourself stop trying to be perfect. Do what you can in the areas you have control, embrace change, and stay connected to the people who love and support you.

And don’t forget to make grace your word of the day. Extend it to others and yourself!

Lydia is the Lead Kindergarten Teacher at Allegiant Prep Academy in Haughville. She is in her second year teaching and especially enjoys teaching her students how to write their names for the first time.