A teacher's triumphThursday, May 21, 2020
BY ORNELIA CAMERON
Living through a pandemic is no easy feat. At times like these we look forward to stories to lift our spirits as we savour each victory, big or small. The following is a lightly edited submission from one of our readers in the Jamaica Observer series, COVID-19 Success Stories.
WHOEVER said online teaching was easier than being physically present in the classroom is a big fat liar!
Show of hands if you've ever been so tired that you wanted to sleep, but despite being in bed, you didn't know where to start? Both my hands are so far up that they hurt.
I've had sleepless nights trying to figure out the best way to teach online so as to cater to the different learning styles. I've been tired with headaches and extremely bloodshot eyes, unable to sleep as all I could think of was how to deliver lessons efficiently for my students to grasp.
There have been days when I've muted my microphone on Skype and just turned off my camera to bawl my eyes out, to go into the bathroom to scream or to splash a bit of water on my face to help calm my nerves — to just exhale, because no matter what I said or did, that child was not getting it. I felt helpless and frustrated. I've done the calls after work hours to check on that child whose needs weren't met; and again I cried and felt unfulfilled.
For each instance in which that happened, I went at it again, trying, as Oprah Winfrey said, to turn my wounds into wisdom. I did webinars, I read, I followed teachers on Instagram to see if there was something I could copy, something I could implement to ensure my children were getting the best out of this online experience. I learned as I went along.
Some days were more overwhelming than others, especially being a single mom to a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, whose school just saw it fit to send the lessons via WhatsApp to us parents. Believe me, I was like a headless chicken juggling mommy duties, teaching my son his lessons, and teaching my class; and, of course, there are other duties around the house.
I did a webinar called Teacher mood and distance learning where they spoke about the reality of what we are feeling as teachers, as educators. The presenter, most importantly, touched on ways in which we can recognise, process, and deal with our “big emotions” in order for us to carry out our jobs effectively.
She suggested that we keep a diary to check our moods by expanding our emotional vocabulary, gain insights about our feelings over time, regulate our feelings and manage our mood each day, form habits of knowing what we are feeling at all times, and then to sit with or shift our emotions and make a note of what works. I've been using a mood metre to monitor my own emotions so that it does not impact my ability to really extend myself efficiently to my kids. I had to develop emotional intelligence to be able to manage my emotions effectively, and avoid being derailed, for example, by a flash of frustration.
During the second month of this whole online teaching shebang, I must say I felt as if I was finally getting the hang of it and I was so excited to go online and deliver my lessons to my children. The greatest thing about it all was, at the end of each lesson, when my kids would tell me they understood, and I threw questions at them to test this theory and proved it to be true.
I've been learning through this all. I've been growing, glowing, and bursting with passion and drive and an eagerness to know more. There are things that I definitely plan on taking away from this experience and implementing in a physical space.
Am I still tired at the end of the day? I most definitely am.
Am I still frustrated from time to time? Show me a teacher who isn't. However, I am using this pandemic to my advantage and that has been my growth mindset.
Ornelia Cameron is a grade three teacher at Fundaciones, a registered independent school with locations in Kingston and Montego Bay, St James.
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