Teaching in a Pandemic
Reflections from a Teacher During Unprecedented Times
By: Beth Feest, Upper School Social Studies Teacher
As we approach the 1 year anniversary of the Covid-19 shutdown, I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking back and analyzing all that has transpired in the past 12 months. Obviously Covid-19 caused a dramatic upheaval for all of us and now we have the opportunity to look back with some hindsight on how we have handled the pandemic from an educational perspective here at Christian Life School (CLS).
When I arrived for the school day on Friday, March 13, 2020, I, like most people, had no idea that it would be the last time I would see my students in a normal classroom setting for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. The CLS Upper School faculty had received an email early in the day stating that our assistant principals would be unavailable for the day because they were working on a project and that was my first inkling that something was up. By 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, the announcement had been made that all students needed to take their books and other school materials home since we’d be out of school physically for at least 2 weeks. My initial reaction was disappointment–not over the decision that was made, but that the spread of the virus had brought things to that point. One of the seniors stopped by and we chatted for a few moments and God allowed me to be a source of comfort and encouragement as we plunged into the “unknown”.
After school, the CLS faculty and staff were informed that we would be switching to virtual learning for at least a couple of weeks and that our assistant principals had been working on a virtual platform model that we would be trained to use during in-service professional development meetings the following week. Thanks to their hard work and tutelage a week later, we were ready to go virtual with our students–little did we know we’d become Zoom experts!
The first couple of weeks were rocky at best as both students and teachers got used to being at a screen for 7 hours a day. At times, I dreaded checking my email once the school day had ended, because I knew that a huge pile of emails of finished student work awaited me and it all had to be graded digitally! Thankfully, I figured out ways to manage and diminish the influx. My favorite Scripture verse is Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” I found myself pondering and meditating on this assurance many times over the next few weeks and months as our school year became something very different than any of us had ever experienced before.
From the beginning, I was so thankful for the planning and creation of the virtual teaching/learning model that we would use for the duration of the school year. It was well-thought out and they were receptive to input from teachers and sensitive to the steep learning curve we were all experiencing. Pivoting, synchronous classes, asynchronous activities and flexibility became things that were vital to keeping students engaged and learning despite the fact that so much was uncertain about the immediate future. Personally, I found myself exploring unique and creative ways to engage and teach my students and help them become more responsible for their own learning. Some of the virtual platforms have found their way into my classroom this year and have made for more engaging lessons all around.
Our mission at CLS is to prepare our students spiritually, academically and socially to impact their world for God. Though it was not easy in any way, shape or form, I believe CLS was able to do this even when we were thrust into the world of virtual learning so suddenly. The fact that we kept our school going and tried to maintain a consistency of learning expectations, gave our students purpose and a reason to get up every morning. This was essential to their overall well-being; not just academically, but mentally and physically as well.
When it was announced that we planned to return to in-person school for this school year, I was very excited. The Lord has given me a passion for teaching history and I know I do that best when I am person to person with my students. Though we have had challenges and times of quarantining, I firmly believe that our administration made the best decision all around to be physically back at school.
One year later, I am hearing quite a bit of “chatter” in the online teacher communities regarding the learning gap that has resulted from Covid-19 and what that might mean for the future. I truly believe that most CLS students were saved from that learning gap because of the dedication of our administration and faculty to keep going and fulfill our responsibilities to the parents who entrusted us with their children’s education.
What will the future hold for us? Of course, no one but the Lord knows, but I am so thankful that I am part of a community of educators who has thrived through the roughest of times and has arguably come out stronger than ever and committed to providing a quality Christian education for the students of Christian Life School.
Beth Feest has been at CLS for 24 years (hired in the fall of 1997). She’s been married to her husband, Joe for almost 27 years; no children, but loves that she can pour my energy and love of history into her students. Beth has a Bachelors of Science in Social Studies Education from Maranatha Baptist University.