This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Lori Dougherty
As I sit at my desk looking around a packed up, bare classroom, trying to figure out how to write this, I am flooded with emotions. The last days are always filled with anticipation, animated conversations about summer plans, and lots of tears and goodbye hugs. But none of that is happening today.
This year there were so many things left undone, so many things our kids didn’t get to experience: Wheeling Park, the Awards Assembly, the 8th Grade Promotion ceremony before a packed house, the 8th graders’ last day walking the middle school halls as the “big dogs.” And for our seniors...well, they have missed so much.
On most days, teaching virtually was, at best, challenging. Trying to reach every student to make sure they were okay, to make sure they were on task, writing more emails in two months than I have probably written in my lifetime- it was beyond my skill set. Many students did not join in the Zoom sessions, nor did they complete many of the assignments. And although many of the kids seem to thrive in this environment-getting to sleep in and work when it suited them, at their own pace- I worried about those who really need that one-on-one instruction in a structured environment. Yes, teachers held private Zoom sessions with them, and some spent hours trying to help a child understand math problems or grasp other concepts that mom and dad just couldn’t help them with. Others sent numerous emails and made phone calls to try to connect with parents of students who had fallen behind, in the hopes of getting them caught up with the assignments they had missed. But it just wasn’t the same.
The everyday banter of my classroom, talking and joking with kids, having daily conversations about important things as well as the mundane-that all was gone. The private conversations or jokes and jabs disappeared. Those relationships were reduced to Zoom sessions here and there and all those emails!
However, all is not lost. As I let my positive vibe peek into the “madness” of this type of schooling, I can see a lot of good things that have come out of this. Number one, I remembered how much I really do love this place, these kids, this community. (Sometimes, as Cinderella (1988) sang, “Don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.”) Also, I have had many parents tell me that they have really come to appreciate the work we do with their kids every day, and the kids have a new-found appreciation for being able to go to school on a regular basis. We also expanded our tool kits, teachers and students alike. We had to figure it out together, and even though it was frustrating at times, we did it! In the process, we have all learned a great deal about our tenacity and we have grown by leaps and bounds in the use of technology. We were even able to give our middle schoolers a virtual Awards Assembly, as well as virtual Graduations for our 8th graders and seniors.
So, as I lock up my classroom for the school year, I am overcome with feelings about what has transpired these past few months, and I pray that all will return to normal sooner than later. And although I am hopeful that we will be back together in this building in the fall, I am also confident that if we must continue with this virtual learning, we will succeed. We have all shown that we are capable of so much more than we ever thought before 2020 hit us!
Lori Dougherty graduated from West Virginia University in 1990 with a degree in education (K-8 Multi Subject). She began a career as a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of Peace School in Wheeling and then went to Bridgeport Middle School in 1996 where she is currently the 8th grade ELA teacher. She received her master’s degree in reading from WVU in 2003. Lori has been involved with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project “Teachers as Thinkers” as well as the Leadership Council at Bridgeport Middle School.
Lori currently is a member of Cohort 3 of the Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Lori’s special interests include reading, running, and cooking.