Teachers Impacted By Pandemic

Julia Leventis, Feature Editor

  With the school being officially closed for the rest of the academic year, many students are left in shock looking back at how this school year has cut to a close. Just one month ago, teachers and students were sharing their last day of school, without knowing it would be the last. For students, it is easy to feel robbed of a proper goodbye to the school year. Getting to prepare oneself for what is to come is a gradual process that has cut short due to the lockdowns for the COVID-19 outbreak. For English teacher, Star Hargis, her worries have changed from how to tackle teaching to how students will be affected. 

   “My initial worries were primarily centered on how this would affect the units I had planned and how I could modify them for at home instructions.  Now that seems remarkably naive to me. As it became more evident that we would not be coming back to school, my worries became more grounded in my personal concerns for my students.  How would this affect my Seniors and their mindsets? How would my students who depend on school for stability and interaction handle isolation? What would happen with the AP test? How could I be an effective teacher online when so much of my class depends on interaction and discussion?  How was I going to keep a positive attitude for my students and my own children when I was severely depressed about everything myself,” Hargis said.

   Much like Hargis, history teacher James Rinehart has found the spread of the virus and its impact on schools surreal and unexpected. 

   “I never dreamed that we would be shut down for the length of time that we have been.  I originally believed that we would be back to school after a few weeks. We have been very lucky that our community has not been affected by the virus like some other places in Missouri have been,” Rinehart said.  

   While teachers have learned to manage teaching and communicating with students online, it is not the same as face to face interaction. Hargis says her biggest challenge with online school is trying to get others as involved and engaged with the lesson or activity. 

   “Many times I can sort of pull the students along with me through difficult material and apathy through sheer force of will and passion for my subject matter, but I can’t do that online.  I miss seeing their faces and hearing their thoughts. I plan to do some virtual meetings, but let’s be honest, that is not the same as being in a classroom,” Hargis said. 

 In addition to not feeling as connected, although Rinehart believes it is a struggle when it comes to the lack of in person interaction, he is glad that he still has a way to communicate with students. 

   “Teaching with my method really depends on the human element; helping students understand history through helping them understand the struggles, triumphs, and sometimes humor that exists within historical events and time periods.  In my online assignments I have tried to include these things, but it works much better in person. I do like that we somewhat stay connected. We didn’t just go home and lose contact. It just isn’t nearly the same interaction I would have with my kids in class,” Rinehart said.   

   Overall, going from seeing at least fifty others a day to seeing less than half as many people, can take a toll on anybody. Hargis wants her students to know that she misses them and sympathizes with how they might be feeling during this time.

   “I miss you so much!  I think about you daily.  I worry about you and my heart breaks for you.  I can see the effects of this closure on my own children, so I know this is challenging to say the least.  Please let me know how you are doing. If you need to video conference or email, I would love to help you any way I can,” Hargis said. 

   Much like Hargis, Rinehart would like his students and seniors to know that he feels for their situation and is there for them. 

   “Teaching isn’t just about subject matter.  It’s about building relationships with the kids. Those relationships last beyond the classroom and well into the future. I want my kids to know that I miss them and that I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to share the parts of history that we’ve missed with them in person. I really miss having those last few weeks with the Senior class.  I was close with several of those kids and miss being able to give them the recognition and goodbye that they deserve. The last few weeks with those Seniors would have been special. I feel bad for them,” Rinehart said.