Reopening: How Do Teachers Really Feel?

A special thank you to Ms. Hajjar, Ms. Fisher, Ms. Delavan, Mrs. Gaffney, and Ms. Wagner for sending in photos.

When given the option of returning to the building more than half of students declined to go back to school in-person. But how do teachers feel about returning to school? Were they given a survey? Have they been left out of the conversation?

It may seem that way to some, as many were not given the luxury of choice when determining if they were going to return to the building. Without a health condition or tangible reason, teachers may not simply opt into virtual education like a student can. 

β€œI understand that as teachers we need to do our job, but I do kind of wish there could have been another option,” says math teacher Carrie Gaffney. She notes that most of her concerns lifted after being vaccinated. 

Foundations of Computer Science teacher Ted Pazulski is similarly thankful for his vaccine but feels some unease around keeping his unvaccinated wife and son safe. 

Most teachers will not be returning until April, but many have already gone back into the building. 

When asked what being back in the classroom was like, Mr. Pazulski says the school felt like a ghost town, where the usual chatters of the hallways were replaced with silence and even conversations with his colleagues were warped by masks and social distancing. While that may seem discouraging, he thinks that it is a sign that the school administration and building services are doing an excellent job at keeping people safe.

β€œIt was a bit weird seeing desks marked off and the one-way signs and things like that,” says chemistry teacher Jennifer Dubyk.  β€œI think it will be even weirder when we are actually back and classes will only have a few students in them.”

β€œDesks are spaced out; there are plenty of cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer is available,” says AP United States History teacher Pamela Rowe. She believes students and staff are more than prepared to keep the community safe. 

Although most teachers are excited about the idea of reopening, some are concerned about the logistics of the plan.

English teacher Sylvia Kim feels the hybrid plan may not be what students are hoping for, as it does not allow for the social interaction or direct instruction that would be most ideal. This combined with the limited number of students returning may increase feelings of isolation, rather than decrease them. 

β€œTeaching hybrid means doing all that we’re already doing but then adding the idea of engaging students in class without coming near them and without providing instruction to them that is more than what I am providing for my virtual students,” says Ms. Kim. β€œThe added stress of wiping down desks in between classes, moving to a different classroom for one of my periods, making sure the kids wipe the desks when they come in while I’m letting people in virtually β€”it’s a lot to deal with.” 

Despite the stress, Ms. Kim is positive that she will be able to thrive and encourages students who are struggling to reach out to their friends and family. 

β€œIt will look and feel very different, and I am confident we will all do the best we can,” says physical education teacher Christine Di Monte.

Students and teachers alike have had their lives turned upside down, and then crushed by a global pandemic. This is widely considered to be the worst-case scenario, and it goes without saying how scary that is. But life can only go up from here, and these obstacles are teaching every generation how to persevere; a skill that will aid everyone for years to come.