15 Frustrating Extra Things Teachers Have to Deal With This School Year


15 Frustrating Extra Things Teachers Have to Deal With This School Year

Saying that a teacher’s life is a busy one is redundant on every level. We are a permanently exhausted group of people that can never seem to catch up on anything: sleep, lesson plans, grading… you name it. Well, along 2020 has come and somehow made our difficult lives even more so. Just in case you have friends that might not realize what you’re dealing with these days, here’s just a brief list of what has landed on our already-crowded plates this year

1. Learning to talk with a mask on

Mask-wearing in schools is here, and it probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While we all got used to popping a mask on while cruising the grocery store for 30 or 40 minutes, teachers have quickly realized that teaching while masked is an entirely different animal. For starters, talking through your mask so that everyone can hear and understand you is a chore. Our lungs have never gotten such a thorough workout. Then there’s the issue of breathing. We, teachers, are big fans of breathing, but doing so with a mask on 8 hours straight is irritating at best and dizzying at worst.

2. Becoming the mask police

Here’s what’s been added to a teacher’s already crowded plate in 2020

As if wearing a mask all day wasn’t challenging enough, we have also now become the gestapo of mask wearing in our hallways and classrooms. We’re constantly stressing to students the importance of keeping it on, all while our glasses are fogging up and we’re close to keeling over. For teachers that constantly struggle to get students to put their phones away and stay in dress code, this is just another battle we need to fight daily.

3. An ever-changing class roster

One of the secrets to teaching success is continuity. Children crave routine because it makes them feel comfortable. Well so much for that! Parents have been continually changing their mind about whether or not to send their children to school, so your classroom has 18 kids in it one day, then 12 the next and maybe 21 the day after that. Teachers across the country have been setting fire to carefully crafted seating charts for weeks now.

4. Somehow providing in-person level instruction… virtually

Keeping students engaged and involved is a tricky business, but teachers have a few tricks up their sleeves. Unfortunately, a lot of those tricks work a lot better when students are in the same room as you. Transporting a brilliant face-to-face lesson plan to online doesn’t always go so well, and usually involves a lot of extra tweaking.

5. Teaching virtually and in-person at the same time

Of all the insane things you can ask a teacher to do, it is this. Teach a group of face-to-face students while also holding a Zoom meeting for at-home students and making sure they all get the same level of instruction. Just figuring out the sheer mechanics of it takes a while, and it takes even longer to get it right. Most of us still haven’t gotten to that second part yet.

6. Cleaning all the things

Yes teachers are well-versed in the art of cleaning up their classrooms, but now? Sanitization has become priority number 1 all day long. If you have classes of students moving through your room throughout the day, you likely have to spray, wipe and sanitize every single surface those students have touched before the new group comes in. 

7. Somehow becoming a tech wizard overnight

While some teachers are very good at using technology, others tend to lag behind the curve. Well no matter how you feel about technology, you weren’t given a choice this year. Suddenly we all had to get real familiar with a whole bunch of apps and online learning programs whether you wanted to or not. And while we keep getting told this is the future of education, we weren’t expecting the future to happen so soon.

8. Becoming every student’s personal IT genius

Yes, not only did teachers have to become knowledgeable with all of this wonderful new technology, we had to become expert enough to troubleshoot our students’ problems as well. Untold class time has been lost this year while a teacher desperately tries to figure out why Johnny’s computer screen isn’t working like it should. And no, we don’t get paid extra for becoming IT professionals overnight.

9. Doing things in groups… separately

Teachers love having students work in groups. It’s a great way for them to learn problem-solving and teamwork skills. Then along came COVID-19 and put the kibosh on that pretty quick. Now teachers have been tasked with finding a way to let students work together without actually being together. And if you teach an online class that issue gets multiplied. Breakout rooms are fine and all until you realize you can’t monitor all of them at once.

10. Providing a hands-on experience, without using your hands

The best way to learn a skill is to experience it and play with it yourself. Experiments, projects, and other creative assignments are some of the most rewarding and successful lessons we teach. And yet this year we’re specifically telling everybody to keep their hands to themselves. It’s yet another hurdle teachers have to figure out a workaround to. 

11. Monitoring students who aren’t sitting in front of you

Keeping students focused and on track is a never-ending battle for teachers. We’re constantly walking around the classroom monitoring our students to make sure everyone is on the same page. But if your class is zooming in from their bedrooms, that gets a lot harder all of a sudden. What if they’re on their phones? What if they’re surfing the web? What if their parents are just off-screen giving them the answers? If anyone knows how to handle that issue, please tell us all!

12. Trying to avoid everyone’s germs on an epic scale

Getting sick in the first month of the school year is one of the “joys” of teaching. It happens to a lot of us: students pile into your room, they cough, they sneeze, they expel germs every which way. In the past, that was just part of the job, but this year it’s become something else entirely. Now we need to worry about students bringing a sickness in with them that you might not recover from. Teaching is hard enough without having to dodge germs like a ninja all day.

13. Planning to be your own substitute teacher

As many administrations have told us, one of the “joys” of utilizing zoom is the ability to continue to meet with your class, even if you’re sick and laying in bed. As hard as this is to believe, many of us have been told to prepare to essentially become our own substitutes just in case we get sent home for a couple weeks (or longer). That means coming up with an extra set of plans that could be carried out while you’re coughing up a lung from the “comfort” of your very own home.

14. Preparing for every conceivable disaster scenario  

As we got closer to the start of this school year it became pretty obvious that no one had a clue what was going to happen. And because of that, we all had to spend a lot of time worrying and planning for anything that could potentially happen. We all had to sit down and plan for situations like, what if a student shows COVID symptoms in the middle of class? What if students refuse to wear their masks? What if you test positive? What if an entire class tests positive? These were questions we all had to answer for ourselves because no one was answering them for us.

15. Being an emotional rock for your students during the most turbulent time in their life

It’s easy to forget sometimes that our students are… kids. They’ve never gone through anything like this before (granted, neither have we), so you can imagine they’re scared, worried and concerned… just like us. Thankfully for them, they have us to lean on and talk to. Teachers however aren’t so lucky. We have to be there for our students to keep them from falling apart, while at the same time keeping ourselves from doing the same thing. 

That is one tricky balancing act that may leave our already-full plates crashing to the floor.

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15 Frustrating Extra Things Teachers Have to Deal With This School Year

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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