Roniece Gilkey speaks with Janessa Jordan — a high school teacher who has taught her three sons — about changes in education during the COVID-19 pandemic and the extra burdens that students, teachers and parents have all had to take on.
Roniece: As a teacher, how is this whole virtual learning situation affecting how you teach?
Janessa: It’s really hard to balance the weight of two very different pressures. I teach seniors. I have lots of little kids in my Zoom classes because my students are having to babysit. Or maybe they’re taking care of Grandma or Grandpa during class. And so those are immense pressures on kids in a really unfair way.
On the other hand, a lot of our kids are gonna go on to college and I cannot pretend college is gonna say it’s okay that you didn’t get to do any essays or read any books or do any grammar work. Nothing that we’re doing feels normal or real or sane. But you’re my student and it is my responsibility to make sure that whatever you’re doing after you leave my classroom, you feel like you’re ready. How does it feel to be a parent?
Roniece: It’s difficult because my sons are so very different. Kyler, who is my oldest that you had, is actually graduating from the University of Memphis. Only four people can go to his graduation. Then you have Bryson, who is a sophomore. He’s a film major. How can you do virtual film work? And then Carson, who you’re teaching right now, is a senior. And he said to me, “I really want to go to school.” Because he wants to be around his friends, he wants to have that senior year.
Janessa: Yeah, right?
Roniece: It’s almost as if we all are mourning what should have been, what we thought 2020 was going to look like. And then trying to explain that to your children? The word I’ve used is grace. We all have to extend each other grace. Give yourself some grace. Give the teacher some grace. Give your students some grace.
Janessa: I think that’s a great point, Roniece, about giving people grace. This is my 10th year, so I’ve taught the same class for a decade. And it’s been a really long time since I have had to start from scratch and totally re-engineer my entire plan. The kids know that. So the kids are not unaware of the fact that their teachers don’t know how to use Zoom. We’re sending things at weird times and yet somehow are also supposed to be teaching them. What I think is really fascinating is there is an unprecedented amount of grace and empathy that I think children are having to give to adults, and that’s not necessarily something that they had to do before. I’m interested to see how this group of kids grows into adults because of the flexibility and the empathy they’ve had to show during this time
Roniece: Thank you for what you do for our students. And I appreciate the community that we’re building in the midst of this pandemic.