April 7, 2021

Nancy Hanus: Teaching in COVID classroom ‘miraculous’ but ‘unsustainable’

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Nancy Hanus is a Michigan journalist who decided to pitch in and become a substitute teacher. What she saw opened her eyes.

I’ve never taught K-12 before, and it’s a totally different thing than teaching college classes as I have for years. But I figured I am smart, I can adapt. I took a position as “building sub” at a metro Detroit middle school, where I had the chance to help students and be the eyes and ears for the teachers as the school transitioned in mid-February from remote learning to hybrid.

I absolutely LOVED being around these kids, and they desperately needed to hear they are doing great. They are resilient and amazing.

But while I watched teachers performing miracles every day, I also saw the “churn” referenced in numerous articles, including Bridge Michigan’s report that 40 percent more teachers have retired so far this school year. I saw, daily, the stress felt by every staff member. The constant “what are we going to do, we don’t have enough teachers!” The teachers frustrated at lack of resources, especially when it comes to aiding the children who need the most help.

Hanus finds the work of teachers in these time miraculous but unsustainable.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve seen so much innovation. But the energy it takes to do this, day in and day out, teaching to a screen and to a classroom – and often doing so with a lot of strikes against you – is exhausting beyond belief.

That anyone is criticizing teachers right now just floors me.

Realistically, what is needed for each of these teachers is an aide, a support person to do what I was doing as a building sub before taking on this class. But schools don’t have the budget for this. And even if they did, there just aren’t the bodies to fulfill this need. There are barely the bodies to do the superhuman work of leading classrooms.

You can find her full account at Bridge Michigan.

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