Quarantined teacher gone mad
If you ask any student during this Pandemic also known as Covid-19, they’ll give you various interpretations of how they either like or hate online schooling. But how are the teachers handling online teaching or Hybrid systems? The transition into Online and Hybrid learning was abrupt and unplanned. Teachers struggled to figure out ways to keep their students engaged in learning and keep up with their assignments. A common difficulty for students struggling with learning right now is the environment in which they are learning in. Typically working from your bed isn’t the most convenient environment to strive from, a bed is meant for relaxation and sleep. Many people struggle finding the right space to study and work from with the stay at home orders and struggle just keeping a mask. The environment a teacher works in can affect how they teach and how the students absorb information.
The rhythmic resounding sound of clangs of hammers, crashes of the tools and rumbles of the forklifts cause Palm Springs high school teacher, Anmarie Economos, to be driven out from working at school. Before, she experienced the sounds of joy, laughter, squeals and sometimes whines from her students before the pandemic hit. For the first 3–4 weeks Ms.Economos worked from the school, and her students from their homes through the computer, this surrounded her in silence.“I work from home now, but not really by choice. We could only very recently go back but no other math teachers did and I don’t want to feel lonely so I just stayed home.”
Ms.Economos did have the option to move to another teachers room to work from but it just unsettled her, why move from the comfort of her many Disney ears, positive signs, Math posters and the various photos of her friends and family spread around her classroom. Economos now works from the comfort of her home, she’s surrounded by her two loving dogs, Disney decor and sounds of her favorite music artists. When asked how she felt about teaching online learning, Economos mentioned her hardest struggle was becoming an introvert.
“My stress level — there is so much to do and keeping up and feeling like you are doing your job well is really hard.I’m an extrovert and being alone isn’t good for me. I started hanging with a few people after Easter and I’ve been better.”
Economos has been struggling trying not to go mad teaching her students and trying to keep them engaged. Economos is a 10–12 grade math teacher and has felt she struggles with feeling effective.
“ At the beginning of quarantine when we weren’t really teaching and I had no contact with kids I was having a really hard time.”
Economos is surrounded by silence now instead of her old joyous laughs before Covid-19. In her classes of 20–25 students she emphasizes engagement. Although her high school students struggle with this. Her grading consists of 10% participation to try and get them to be involved, but even so many of her students keep their cameras off and don’t speak up. She has allowed them to use the zoom chat feature to allow them to voice their answers if they aren’t comfortable doing it over the mic.
“ I wish more kids were comfortable putting on their camera and talking out loud- I miss the noise, I’m not a big fan of the quiet.”
Economos wishes she could change the Quarter system during this Pandemic in her high school. She finds herself questioning how it helps the students learn in such a short amount of time while they rotate their classes during the day. “I really don’t like our quarter system. It’s so hard for math- it’s a new way to learn it online and in such an accelerated timeline.”
As stated in the World Economic Forum’s article, The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever, “In the US, there is a significant gap between those from privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds: whilst virtually all 15-year-olds from a privileged background said they had a computer to work on, nearly 25% of those from disadvantaged backgrounds did not”. (WEforum)This further explains the notion how online learning hurts many students in lower economic standing households, they couldn’t properly connect to classes because sadly they can’t afford it.
Noted in LCFF Budget overview for Parents of PSUSD, “In 2018–2019, 88.4% of the students served in the Palm Springs Unified School District were socioeconomically disadvantaged. We currently have 102 identified foster children, 0.5%, as students in our schools, who are monitored by district staff to ensure they have the greatest opportunity for success” (Roce.us). Economos mentioned how many of her students struggle with acquiring the proper wifi to stay on or even show up some days to her math class. Palm Springs unified school districts have given those underprivileged students hotspots to help allow them to get on track easier with online learning although there have been many faults with the hotspots. Economos stated “While we equaled it out a little with everyone getting hot spots, they just don’t have the support at home/they respond for a lot at home. Normally school gives them a quiet spot to focus”, she further explained how she believes she is doing her best at trying to keep them involved with her class and is understanding to her students with many malfunctions that come with being online.
Economos is a very genuine teacher, she tries her best to involve herself with her students otherwise known as “Her Kids” lives. When asked, if she at one point during this pandemic felt like leaving her job, Economos was conflicted. When she first became a teacher what inspired her was her previous high school teachers and her nerdy love for math. Due to Covid-19 she truly felt she would leave her job even though she truly loves what she does.
“I don’t think I could do online teaching forever. It literally diminishes the biggest piece of teaching- the real relationships with the kids.”
Another struggle for Economos is not having her students in front of her, she cannot see their work clearly and what exactly her students are struggling with the most. Students in this age of online learning are going through the motions rather than learning and retain the information being given. “The kids struggle with distractions in their home. I see kids taking care of younger siblings while trying to learn. And the fast pace”. Economos has allowed after office hours and tutoring, its even implemented in their online schedule. From 1–2 English and History have their tutoring hours and for Math and Science it from 2–3. Economos mentioned how many of her students actually never come for help. “Not many kids use it though. I’m going to try and make it mandatory for those who fail a test.”
Economos is very open minded and has even talked to her fellow teachers about how teaching has gone for them during this pandemic. The math department at the high school overall has been “okay” in her point of view. The department has worked alongside one another during this pandemic, “We work together and talk about our feelings. I have very little contact with the rest of the school these days (sad) since even our “staff meetings” are only two departments. But from what I see on our district Facebook page we are all tired and stressed and miss normal.” Although Covid-19 has affected her mental health what keeps her motivated everyday are her kids and coworkers.“There are a few kids who are working and trying who participate in class and ask for help. I stay focused on them and that motivates me.”
Economos is a teacher, sister, coworker, mom to dogs and a friend. She tries to live her days quarantined at home as happy as possible. Covid-19 has impacted her life drastically, not allowed to see certain friends to health issues has been something that always reminds her of the “mess” this pandemic has brought.
“I can’t give hugs as often and that sucks for me!”
Other than that Economos feels lucky to not be impacted like others. She is grateful to be working and getting the same paycheck from the safety of her home.
When asked, if the pandemic ended what would be the first thing you’d do? She yelped in excitement “DISNEYLAND! Then hug my sister.” Economos is also excited to get her students back into school, in front of her where they can see her “Beautiful face” and hear her “loud voice” filled with joy, laughter and excitement from her students as well. Economos explained “From a religious standpoint, Sin brings all of earth’s issues”, in some weird way Covid-19 happened for a reason, which one of those she doesn’t know. Maybe the added sins of everyone she mentioned but truly things just happen.
Some random facts about Ms.Economos that her students might not know are she can easily finish a book in a day. Anything chocolate and peanut butter is her JAM. Her sister is her favorite human. She considers herself an absolute klutz and trips up the stairs often. Economos hopes to influence her students just as her previous high school teachers did. She is history, as a teacher during Covid-19 Economos can be one to say, “I taught my students during Covid”. It’s a challenging task during this special time to be a teacher, oftentimes we find that students and the teachers have “given up”. Economos has stated it crossed her mind to give up but in the end she has persevered and is “trying” to be the best teacher she can during these hard times.