I Interviewed A Special Education Teacher About COVID-19, And She Is Truly A Superhero
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I Interviewed A Special Education Teacher About COVID-19, And She Is Truly A Superhero

Teachers are underappreciated and changed their entire curriculum to meet the needs of students.

I Interviewed A Special Education Teacher About COVID-19, And She Is Truly A Superhero

1. When did you realize that COVID wasn't going to go away anytime soon?

I think about 2 weeks after Spring Break. More and more things were closed down and the "flatten the curve" initiative made me realize this was a long haul kind of situation.

2. How did you respond as a teacher?

I grieved personally. Then I made choices to try to keep a connection with my students. I had my paras make videos I could send to the kids. Some were silly videos to make the kids laugh. Others were heartfelt messages to remind the students how much we all care.

3. How did your kids respond?

Many rose to the academic challenges I placed before them. I was impressed with their resilience. But behind the scenes, I learned they were still frustrated with the situation and grieving the loss of their familiar environment. In my communication with them, I didn't sense the fear of the virus as much as sadness about the change in the way they were learning away from their friends.

4. What challenges do you face that General Education teachers may not?

Obviously, my students require more support. I teach a fairly self-contained group. While other students were able to do a packaged online curriculum or work on a grade-level packet, I had to craft and send work to meet the individual needs of every student to the best of my ability. I had to be in regular communication with the parents of all of my students.

5. What did a typical day look like for you in the classroom?

Before distance learning, we would start our day with an elective. This allowed for us to have morning meeting, work on classroom chores, and address goals. We followed the bell schedule for school and had our core subjects. Some students would participate in inclusion classes with support from our paraprofessionals. We had a specific structure and routine. Fridays were our cooking days and days to deposit our class currency in their "bank accounts." They could purchase items with their class currency from our store.

6. What does it look like now?

I have always used a decent amount of technology in my class to foster independence with my students. As we transitioned to distance learning, that familiarity with technology helped them. I send daily assignments in their core subjects through Google Classroom. Most of my students do this work mid-morning through early afternoon. I look at their work, grade it, create a recorded response, and craft the next assignment during the afternoon and evening. I usually get up early in the morning to finish as I want to have downtime in the evening

7. How have you been encouraging your students?

I am able to meet with some of them online once a week to touch base with them and explain things they may be struggling with. As I mentioned before, I send videos to them. I wrote a silly song about life in quarantine and sent it to them as well.

8. What do you see the upcoming year looking like for your teaching style?

I think I'm going to have to focus on small group instruction. I am blessed to have a very large classroom suite in which I can spread students apart as needed. We have always been a close-knit group in my classroom and I'm going to have to find a way to maintain that sense of unity while still doing my best to keep everyone safe.

9. Are you in favor of standardized testing being canceled? Do you wish they had tried to assign the STAAR test to students to take at home?

My primary issue with standardized testing is the way the data is used to put pressure on schools. I feel the testing should be used as a tool for each campus to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments. I feel it was the right decision to cancel the STAAR for this year. Any data from this year would not have been accurate as there were too many other factors influencing student achievement. In a way, we all had to go into our version of "survival mode" and the testing was one more layer of stress on our teachers and students that wasn't necessary for this year.

10. Is there anything that you'd like to comment on about the entire situation?

I believe we all need to extend grace to one another right now. There are so many different ways teachers and students are responding to our world today. There are many real fears for well-being and stress about what is going to happen in the future. We need to take care of ourselves and take care of each other.

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