Social Studies teacher Jacqueline Stone, who has been working from home since the start of the pandemic, is a mother to four kids: ages four, seven, nine, and ten. “There have been so many times my little one comes into the office bathroom and just sits here next to me while potty training. It’s distracting to me, but I just have to laugh,” she said.
With Covid-19 cases on the rise and Alameda County’s return to the purple tier, the plan for the reopening of schools remains uncertain. Many teachers are struggling to effectively teach virtually and many students are struggling to focus and grasp concepts. Among teachers, there are those who not only have the responsibility of guiding their students, but also the responsibility of managing and caring for their own children at home, simultaneously.
The plight of teachers who are parents to small children seems to be overlooked by many. Prior to the sudden closure of schools, teachers had to deal with one duty at a time, but now with everyone staying at home, it’s no easy task to juggle both teaching and parenting.
“There was a lot of pressure that I put on myself at the beginning to ‘teach’ my own children in addition to my students. It’s impossible. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, and I have had to become okay with that,” claimed Stone.
Stone is not the only one who has to deal with toddler mishaps while teaching. English teacher Stacy Kania, a mom to a six-year-old and a two-year-old, can definitely relate. “When distance learning began last year… it was pure chaos. I remember teaching a class, and my daughter ran in screaming, ‘I poooooooped!’ We all just started cracking up. I think we all manage this because we have no choice but to figure it out. When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing to see how we have all adapted.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to balance teaching and parenting, but even then, it’s crucial to pay attention to one’s own mental health, especially during these unprecedented times.
“Naturally, I have a lot of anxiety when I don’t have control over my life. There were many days where I felt lost trying to create new lesson plans, make sure my students had what they needed, juggle my kids, and finish my grad work. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t turn my brain off. My mental health was probably at its worst last year, and I had to find ways to prioritize myself,” Kania described.
Teachers struggle to make time for themselves amongst all this. They have had to make many sacrifices to make sure everything is being done on time.
“In order to get my prep done for the week, I stay up late on Sunday nights. The only quiet time I have is after my children go to sleep at around 8:30. At that time I can focus on planning out my week. I’ve essentially swapped my usual day time prep in a normal year to late at night. But that allows me to focus on my kids during the day to help them with school work as much as I can,” said Stone.
Although virtual teaching is not ideal, teachers have had to come to terms with it and do their best to be there for their students. “Teachers don’t want to teach this way and we miss interacting with our students. My favorite part of being a teacher is developing meaningful relationships with students and seeing that academic maturity happen in real time. Zoom is meeting a need, but it’s not a replacement by any means,” said Stone.