Many students have felt alone or isolated over the last year, and it may surprise you to know that your teachers have felt the same way. It has been really important that they take extra care to check in about mental health as well as offer support with teaching online.
Last summer, some English teachers worked with Shorecrest teachers who teach the same subject and grade. “[We did this] to figure out how much we could cover in the online format and what we consider to be essential skills and concepts students should gain,” English teacher Tim Murray said. “It was good to collaborate with our colleagues from across the district.”
Most of the English department, led by Murray and Barb Lachman, has taught at Shorewood for a long time and know each other well. “The challenge of putting our entire courses online, and then switching it all up again for the hybrid schedule has demanded we rely on each other not only to get our jobs done but to keep each other mentally well,” Murray said. It has been difficult with the isolation that comes with being online. For this reason, they have worked in small groups a lot to aid each other with this daunting process.
Murray has worked with Heidi Lewis, another English teacher, ever since she was his student teacher about five years ago. They have continued working together, with Murray providing knowledge and feedback about being an English teacher, while she helps Murray with the tech. “I, not being a digital native (first used a computer in ninth grade), have had to follow her lead,” Murray said. “She has been very kind and patient, a lifesaver.”
Spanish teacher Lindsey Burrows and English teacher Erica Ryan have texted multiple times a day, every day during the pandemic. “I’ve been at Shorewood for 18 years and Ms. Ryan for 10…but it’s only been in the past few years that we have really gotten to know each other,” said Burrows.
They first started doing it because, well, memes are funny. Then it progressed to more relevant memes about the pandemic, remote teaching and “Tiger King,” or having themes of parenting, aging, being at home for a year. And sometimes they were completely random. “It always amazed us at how true so many of them were,” said Burrows. “It was something to look forward to. It made us laugh or cry (sometimes). It…opened up other conversations, like about our mental health [and] how we were coping.” The memes were able to serve as a way to express how they were feeling.
Tammy Fawcett, a chemistry teacher, helped to create a template for teachers’ Canvas pages, not only to help students navigate but also to make it easier on teachers when setting up lessons. “I was on a district committee [that designed the modules. We] split up tasks. I chose to work on the common teacher homepage and corresponding pages such as ‘About Me’, ‘Past Week’s Work’, etc,” Fawcett said. “I went through a few different iterations, consulted with members of the committee, and had a Q&A session with a few classroom teachers to get their input.” The teachers were able to give great input to improve the homepage.
The modules have been helpful for both teachers and students. “If either the teaching community or student/family community thought the site was clunky or difficult to navigate, I would have heard about it immediately…no news is good news in this case,” said Fawcett.
Assistant principal Elaine Swanson has also noticed that teachers are checking in with each other a lot. “There have been regular ‘have a good day’ messages going out to the entire staff, [as well as] lots of ‘we can do this’ messages,” she said.
In the main office, the support staff consists of Lorrie Magaoay, Jordan Davidson, and Kelly Martinez. They have arranged their schedules so that they are not all working at the same time in a small space. Martinez says, “We were checking in with each other every day to see how things were going, both professionally and personally. If someone needed something, we would find out how to support, by dropping things on doorsteps, grocery shopping, or just a phone call to listen if someone needed to talk.” Although it feels weird not working together, Martinez thinks the constant communication and support has brought them closer together.
Like many students, teachers are glad we are on the road to normalcy. “My main takeaway from this year is that I really don’t like pandemics,” Murray said. “It took me 53 years to learn that.”