The teacher diaries- Do I want to teach on-campus again?

The day we were all waiting for finally came. Hybrid learning became a piece of our past rather than our present or future. All of the teachers did a merry jig when we heard the news. There were sighs of relief, cries of “Finally!” echoing through the halls. The last two years have certainly taken a toll on us, and we were ecstatic that things were going back to normal again.

A new normal, no doubt. Masks still on. Social distancing implemented as best we could. Physical contact restricted. And yet, with new rules come more restrictions, and I became a strict teacher somewhere along the way. The fear of covid still gripped me, and I became harsh when students broke the rules, fearful when I saw children simply doing what children do. I couldn’t help myself; my love for my students drove me to paranoia. I’m aware it sounds like the plot of a creepy fiction novel. However, there’s simply no other way to put it. I was stressed. I loved being around all the students I hadn’t physically even met before. BUT…..I have had issues adjusting to on campus school again. I was not too fond of how they rubbed snot from their noses with germy hands or dropped food on the table and promptly ate it up without hesitation. 

The problems begin….

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I listened in horror as my colleague told me that one of my students stuffed a French fry in his nose and proceeded to eat it, much to the disgust of his peers.

Every day, I watch students jiggle like bowlfuls of jelly in the class, fidgeting, unable to sit still, till I feel my nerves fraying one by one.

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My experienced eyes often catch students I thought were sweet and caring bullying someone in the corridor. I’m shocked and almost personally affronted when I see things so out of character. How could I have been so deceived by their nature online?

Online, students were quiet, switched their cameras off when they needed to put food in their noses (for whatever reason), and I thought the world of them. Being back on campus has shown me sides of my students that I can’t unsee anymore.

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I’m delighted to be back on campus, don’t get me wrong. Children learn best when they’re inside a school building, and teachers teach best when they’re physically in a classroom. I had waited for the moment for two years. And yet, here we are. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, and I find myself dreaming of days when I didn’t change out of my PJs on school days, woke up late, and secretly sipped coffee with my camera off for a few seconds. I miss being able to mute my whole class. 

I believe that teachers have suffered during the pandemic along with their students. After upskilling ourselves tremendously during covid, it sometimes feels like a massive shift happening all over again. I did not think I would need so much time to adjust. However, sometimes the noise in the corridors won’t let me check my papers properly. The whining of a student over a minor boo-boo makes me feel impatient. The hectic routine of on-campus life leaves my feet sore, my brain boggled, and my mind craving for peace.

This too shall pass…

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But when I lie in bed at night, I smile while thinking about a joke my student made. I think about the material I would like to show them the next day. I plan strategies on how we could play hooky with the curriculum and play games together to bond. I worry about a few kids in my class and spend my time researching ways to help them out. Finally, I drift off into a deep slumber of contentment.

These thoughts keep me going and reassure me that I am doing right by these kids. I may not be the most patient person at the moment, but I want to be better for them. I know I’ll get there, and my students will guide and help me. 

I know teachers around the world are feeling burnout and are quitting. I now understand why. I think the same way some days don’t seem worth the effort. I believe it is essential to understand each other and support each other in good times and bad. I say this because it seems like times are really, really good, yet some of us are not in a good place at all. And we hide it because we could come across as ungrateful or undeserving. Always remember to talk to someone if you’re low. You’re never alone. Although the grass always seems greener on the other side, you’ll get through this. This too shall pass.

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Until then, enjoy the little things. Laugh with them as they dirty their faces and make silly jokes. Enjoy their youth and innocence. Remember the things that made you love teaching, and live day by day. One fine day, you’ll see that life is good again, no matter what path you choose.

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