COVID restrictions magnify tough first year for new teachers
Sammamish has experienced an increase in its student population in the last few years. To meet the growing demand, public schools have welcomed new teachers as school buildings reopened this September for in-person classes.
Schools and their staff are adapting to function in this new reality. It has been especially challenging for teachers who are embarking on their new careers.
Sean Doyle, 35, is a new teacher at Inglewood Middle School. Last spring, Doyle received his master’s degree in teaching from Seattle Pacific University. He teaches science to sixth and seventh grade classes.
Doyle finds that the social distancing guidelines and the use of masks impede his ability to get to know his students.
“The masks are making it harder to associate a voice with a student and form an impression of a student. As a new teacher, I want to make more connections with my students,” said Doyle.
Samantha DePiano, 25, is a new teacher at Eastlake High School who teaches algebra. Initially it was tough for her to get used to Eastlake’s notorious block schedule and keep students engaged with the subject content for 90 minutes without a break, especially when she cannot see the students’ facial expressions.
“Making engaging learning for 90 minutes and building the endurance among students with masks on until the last moment is a little challenging,” said DePiano.
Both Doyle and DePiano are grappling with the difficulties of handling full-size classes for the first time in their teaching career. Now, they have pandemic restrictions on top of that.
Doyle had hoped to include collaborative group activities, like science projects and presentations, for his students. But the restrictions to social engagement have disrupted those plans.
“The social distancing guidelines are leading to less group activities with the students which is not making school as meaningful an experience as a normal year would,” said Doyle.
DePiano completed her teacher training online during the pandemic. She has not had the experience of teaching in an actual classroom setting, nor has she seen what a normally run classroom in pre-COVID times looks like. She did not know what to expect in an in-person teaching environment when she started in September.
“I felt almost lucky not knowing what a normal year feels like quite yet. It makes dealing with the chaos a little easier,” said DePiano.
Both teachers noted that things could be much worse.
“I thought I would be on an island and slowly figure things out, but Inglewood has been great in supporting me as a new teacher,” said Doyle. “I have a great group of teachers with whom I collaborate, and exceptionally good students in my classes.”
Overall, both Doyle and DePiano have enjoyed the experience in their first year of teaching. Without the generous support of their colleagues and the administrative staff at school, they believe the work would be much harder.
“I have been surprised with the amount of support I’ve felt from those around me,” said DePiano. “Even if I feel like I’m having a bad day, it’s nice to know that I can lean on those around me for support.”