Teachers have lives too


Jessi Morrison, Photographer/Writer

As school resumes for the new year, things are obviously very different than anything we’ve ever experienced before. You might recall how in the middle of March last year, a news story that started out as just a small curiosity swept through the world and pulled the rug out from under us before we could say goodbye to everything we knew. But it didn’t just change our lives as students; it completely shattered the lives of some of the most influential and important people we saw every day. One example is teachers; they are the backbone of our society, and whether you know it or not, we need them in our lives just as much as family and friends. As I entered this school year, a question lingered in my mind: do teachers feel the same way as we do? I set out to discover how some of my previous and current teachers felt about having to come to school being older and more susceptible to the new virus named COVID-19. I scheduled my interviews at the beginning of this school year, and soon enough, one common factor came into place: our teachers are just as uncertain as we are.

My first interviewee was Mrs. Angela Clark, a ninth grade English teacher. I asked her, “How did you feel when we went virtual so suddenly in March?”

She had a combination of emotions. She was shocked and surprised, and when the governor announced that all schools would close, a wave of surreality washed over her. Everyone had so many opinions and theories about the Coronavirus, but Mrs. Clark declared that she would stay away from social media and focus on her family.

My next interview was with Mrs. Laura Ring, a Chemistry teacher. When asked for her emotions back in March, she expressed the worry and fear she had not only for her family but also for her students. As time moved forward in quarantine, Mrs. Ring did everything she could to keep in touch with her students and their needs. It was an emotional experience, “I cried the day we got the notice that [my advisory] had officially graduated without having so many of the special experiences that go along with senior year,” she said.

Mr. Michael Jacobs, a U.S. History teacher, demonstrated similar worries for his students as Mrs. Ring had. He felt defeated and unsupported, and although he knew he couldn’t control anything that happened, not being able to teach new content left him helpless.

As Mrs. Sarah Sone, an Oral Communications teacher, exclaimed, “We were not supposed to teach new material for what became nine weeks!” She was also worried about her students but interacting with them online sprouted new normalcy for the strange situation.

Soon after the beginning of quarantine, summer came, and so did many questions about how school would return for the fall of 2020. Things were changing daily, and just like students, teachers received minimal information. “With so many variables that could influence the district’s decision, I found myself hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.” Mr. Jacobs remarked, “The worst being starting the year all virtual.”

Mrs. Sone spent her summer “wanting to plan ahead,” but not knowing what to plan for. The entire district had to adapt to new forms of learning very quickly. “We didn’t have a very clear direction until the very end of July, and then that was ultimately altered too.”

After many weeks of wondering, the district announced its new plan for the school year. Students were to attend school for two days a week and be split up into two groups by last name, then the other three days of the school week would be virtual. The “Hybrid Learning” option didn’t last long, though, as a couple of weeks later, just fourteen days before the first day of school, the governor declared that all schools must offer on-campus instruction all five days. This sudden change turned everyone on their heads, especially our FHS teachers, who all revealed to me how irritated they were about the governor’s decision. “The protections [the district] were working so hard to put in place for teachers were largely nullified,” said Mrs. Ring, “I personally know many teachers who retired early, resigned, or took a leave of unpaid absence because they could not put their families at risk of catching the virus.” Mrs. Ring then added that she’s had to take many measures for safety herself, including secluding herself from her family. Many teachers didn’t have the option to protect themselves and were forced to return to school.

Mr. Jacobs then explained how he wished the district would have taken a stand against the Governor and ADE commissioner in reply to the state’s decision. “I am not content with the Governor and Commissioner waiting sixteen days after FPS released their original plan to come back and say our plan was not compliant with their standards.” Although frustrated at first, now he believes the option for five-day learning is a good thing, as it “helps students who need resources.”

Our teachers have great pride for the Fayetteville Public School district and trust that if the government hadn’t stepped in, the district would have provided the ultimate support possible for all students. Mrs. Sone stated, “These kinds of decisions are best made by our local leaders.”

All of my interviewees expressed how they all just wanted the best for their students. Some wanted to start virtual, and others are outraged by how the state has handled the pandemic, but it all boils down to giving all students as much help as they can get. All we can do is “continue to wear masks, wash our hands, and social distance so that we can bring the numbers down.” Mrs. Clark stated. Our ultimate end goal is to return to five-day face to face learning with zero cases in our area, and the only way that will be possible is if we all comply with rules and regulations.
Alas, some students have taken it upon themselves to make their own rules and pay no or little attention to the guidelines put in place. I asked Mrs. Ring, “Have you seen students or maybe even other teachers not following the mandatory COVID-19 guidelines?”

“Unfortunately, I have … If I am making this sacrifice to be here for our students, I wish they would do their part as well.” One thing we should all remember in these times is that taking part in mandatory guidelines are a sign of respect toward your teachers and peers. When asked if she’d seen teachers disobeying the rules, it struck her temper. “Whether people believe the science or not (as they should), our district leadership has been very clear on the expectations for all faculty and staff regarding COVID safety procedures.”

On the other hand, teachers like Mr. Jacobs and Mrs. Sone try their best to be understanding toward students who might have a hard time with their mask and social distancing. This is all very new, and as Mrs. Sone said to me, it is hard to resist our normal behaviors, whether it be hugs or handshakes.

My last question was something everyone has probably been wondering since the first day of school; how long will this last? When I proposed the question to my interviewees, all answered the same. They have no idea, the same as you. Although undetermined of the future, when bad news does arise, everyone is prepared for a switch to full virtual and have done their best to make sure all of you are prepared as well. “I hope that FPS stays healthy and safe so that we can provide valuable, high-quality instruction and additional resources to our students,” Mrs. Clark told me, “Students deserve a positive and safe educational experience.” And no matter what a “safe educational experience” means to you, our teachers will be there with us to help us get through any upcoming obstacles.

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