This is a scary time for all of us. In no uncertain terms, 2020 has slapped each of us in the face a time or two (or ten). Through it all, however, we’ve seen enormous shows of strength. Healthcare workers continue to put their lives at risk for those affected by the pandemic, essential employees make necessities available every day, and activists brave the hostile climate of the country to fight for equal justice. While these people are beginning to receive the praise they deserve, unsung heroes exist everywhere. I had the privilege of speaking to one such hero on behalf of Her Campus to ask how she is coping with COVID-19. Dana Boyle is a teacher and VPK Director at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School.
Her Campus (HC): Can you tell us how the pandemic has affected your day-to-day life in school?
Dana Boyle (DB): I have had to rethink every aspect of my school day from the moment my students enter my classroom to the moment they leave. My school is engaging in synchronous teaching where we have students attending class in person while others are learning remotely via Zoom conferencing. As a teacher, the expectation is to teach all students simultaneously. Other demanding aspects of teaching during this pandemic are the safety protocols and social distancing guidelines that have been put into place.
HC: What challenges do you face concerning students’ behavior? Have students been quick to adapt to the changes around the school?
DB: Thankfully our transition into our new school year has been fairly smooth. Students are happy and excited to be interacting with their friends again after such a long time away from the classroom. They have also been cooperating with our current and necessary safety protocols amid the pandemic and are following the routines that have been put into place such as hand washing, mask-wearing and social distancing. Although remembering to have their masks on while moving about the classroom has taken some getting used to.
HC: With all the adjustments made, do you feel like you are being asked to do more than just teach?
DB: Absolutely! Teachers are expected to maintain all of our safety protocols and guidelines throughout the day, ensuring students are maintaining their social distance, wearing their masks, washing hands appropriately and working toward keeping the classroom as clean as possible by sanitizing high traffic areas throughout the day.
HC: Have you seen increased respect for your profession following the introduction of Covid-19?
DB: Yes, to a degree. I think that parents, families and communities at large have a greater understanding and respect for what we do as teachers and the enormous responsibility that comes along with this profession based on family interactions during distance learning at the beginning of the pandemic. With that being said, unfortunately there exists a continued and significant deficit when it comes to the recognition, respect and positive financial aspects of this profession by the leaders in local, state and federal levels of government.
HC: What concerns do you have going forward in the school year?
DB: The consistent and continued concerns are, first and foremost, the health and safety of our faculty, staff and student population. Secondly, it would be the concern about being able to appropriately close any gaps from any learning deficits experienced by our students during the months of distance learning that may have taken place at the outset of the pandemic.
HC: What advice would you give to other teachers during this time?
DB: Although we are faced with some very uncertain and challenging times, it is important to establish a sense of normalcy in an abnormal situation. It is also important for the sake of our students and ourselves to remain positive and steadfast in expressing a love of learning for our students to help keep them continually engaged. To find ways to help the children feel safe and comfortable and to engage in self-care so that we can maintain a hopeful outlook.
HC: Finally, what do you hope both students and teachers can learn from COVID-19?
DB: Even though we are living in unprecedented times, and it seems like everything is changing, some things will always remain the same. That if we can come together as a community, we can support each other through kindness and empathy. We can get through this together and we will come out on the other side more united as a people because we have experienced something that can be potentially life-changing, together.
Teaching is not easy- now more than ever. Strong women like Dana Boyle serve as an example by staying optimistic and being prepared to face the challenges ahead of them.