When we started our journey to become teachers four years ago, we had no idea that this was what our first-year teaching experience was going to be like. We began our career in the Fall of 2020 during the unprecedented times of Covid-19. We felt like we were thrown into the water with nothing to help keep us afloat. There are various aspects to teaching that many people don’t consider. We are still getting to know who we are as educators, now throw in a global pandemic and you can just imagine how frightening and stressful this was for us. Don’t get us wrong, nothing makes us happier than getting up in the morning and teaching our students. But teaching while you’re wearing a mask and goggles is not how we thought our careers would begin. We never thought we would have to be behind plexiglass in order to teach our young students sounds so they could read our lips. We have always been told that the first five years are the hardest, and that apparently over 30% of teachers leave the profession in those first few years due to feeling overwhelmed. However, that’s in a regular school year. This year has been anything but ordinary.
We graduated in the Spring of 2020 and missed our University graduation due to the pandemic. We had worked so hard for that very moment, all for it to be cancelled. However, we are not alone. In thinking about that, we have to think about all students at different levels that are missing out on huge milestones in their lives. From Kindergarten students missing out on their graduations, to Grade Six students not getting a proper send off to high school, to high school students not getting a Graduation or a Prom. We also think about the parents and family members who didn’t get to see their child walk across that monumental stage. It is terrible and sad, as these are moments we won’t ever get back.
To begin, there is a lot that goes into being a first-year teacher. We are still understanding who we are, what we believe in, and what our goals are for us and our students. We are still learning how to implement the curriculum in a fun and engaging way. We are not given lesson plans and told what to do with them. We are given a curriculum, the concepts a student in each grade level should be targeting, and we are to make lessons up on our own. The first years of teaching are the years where educators start to build their resources and lessons to adapt to future years. Personally, we spend an extra 2+ hours a day (unpaid time) working and preparing lessons, activities, and materials for our students and our classrooms. As teachers we are pretty much prepared for anything and everything. However, this is something no one could have prepared us for. We are constantly thinking about the possibility of our students getting sick, cases in the school, classrooms closing and going online, getting the virus ourselves, not being able to teach our students, students being frequently absent because of symptoms, and much more. We pride ourselves on being there for our students and their social emotional needs, yet we can’t even give them hugs this year. Being a first-year teacher is tough from the start. All of this would have been stressful enough but now there is a global pandemic. Talk about pressure.
Teaching during a global pandemic in general is difficult on the body and mind. It also takes a toll on our mental health, as I’m sure it does for the students. Every single task that would have been a breeze during a regular school year has turned into a challenge. For instance, getting students inside the school separately was something we had to do that we never had to think about before. We need to wait minutes in between classes to enter the school so there we are no more than two classes in a hallway at the same time. We are in charge of keeping our students in their bubbles whether it be in the hallways, bathrooms, staircases, playgrounds, and buses. Our students, the younger cycles, (up until March Break in Quebec) were not obligated to wear face masks in the classroom. We were able to be in a school with hundreds of students and staff members but are prohibited from seeing our loved ones. As teachers, we need these people to help us get through normal stressful times, such as lesson planning, classroom management, time management, and report cards. Not being able to see our loved ones for support has been incredibly hard for teachers.
From the children’s perspective, we think they are much more resilient than we give them credit for. No one ever complains they have to wear a mask. They sanitize and wash their hands without being reminded. They don’t complain about being in the same classroom all day. They aren’t getting upset that they can’t play with their friends in other classes. They know to keep their distance and to stay in their bubbles. Thanks to the strength and resilience of our students, our jobs are a little easier in that department. As teachers we want school to remain as normal as possible for them. A lot has changed and we cannot wait until the day we are allowed to teach “normally” again. We are looking forward to the day we can look back on all of this and say, as a community, we got through this together.
We want to remind everyone reading this to take a breath of fresh air and try to be as patient with everyone as you can! We are out here doing our best and it can be extremely overwhelming and anxiety-inducing at times.
At the end of the day, we aren’t here for any other reason than our passion for teaching. We love how happy our students are to be at school, and their thirst for learning. Ultimately, our hope is that this pandemic will teach everyone to live every second to the fullest and celebrate each milestone. If you are teachers like us, feel free to reach out. Jubsies’ amazing community is a driving force to bring us all together. One of Jubsies’ main missions is to encourage, inspire and promote leadership for all. What more can you ask for when we are literally teaching the next generation of future leaders?!
The parents of our students as well as staff and Principals have been absolutely wonderful and understanding. If you feel like you are overwhelmed, please remember, you are not alone. With the vaccine already here, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are all trying to do our best! All in all, we believe that as first year teachers if we can get through this, we can get through anything!
By: Amanda Doonan and Meaghan Moran | March 30, 2021