Teacher: The year of COVID was not “lost”

Over the past year, Nancy Ye has experienced with high school students the death of a loved one, financial pressure, housing insecurity, and the psychological burden of navigating a growing season in a global pandemic.

“The pandemic has destroyed our community,” said Yeh, a MIT graduate who teaches algebra, calculus, and English as a new language in Bronx Latin, New York City. “[I know] Abused or absent parents, homeless students, foster care students, students who had to work in an illegal shift 12 hours after school just to help their families.

Despite the casualties, Mr. Ye wants people to stop calling on-screen learning periods “lost.”

“I’ve been told by kids that I feel this grade is useless because everyone around me says so,” she told Chalkbeat. “We have established a great sense of companionship in class by joking in Zoom chat and learning on the Zoom screen. My AP Calculus kids are as many as they meet in person. I’m learning math. “

Yeh was one of more than 275 educators, parents and students writing to Chalkbeat at the time. We asked the reader How did the pandemic affect the school community as part of a partnership with Univision called the Pandemic 360?

A fourth-year teacher, Yeh, desperately adapted to virtual-only learning for the past year, and then switched back to a hybrid of face-to-face and virtual lessons.

Yeh wants Chalkbeat to add school in light of this year’s challenges, how she grew the community in virtual classrooms, how the pandemic exacerbated the injustices of the school community. We talked about mental health and learning support.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Did you have a moment when you decided to become a teacher?

I used to work for a non-profit education organization when I was in college and loved that experience, but I never really thought about becoming a teacher until I started working full time. I was working for an investment bank and was really lucky and had a great team, but I found the job a bit boring. I wanted to do something influential for my community. I always loved my teacher, I loved school, and I always thought the kids were cheerful and cute, so I joined the New York Teaching Fellow.

When you wrote to Chalkbeat, you mentioned many of the challenges posed by the pandemic: fatigue, stress, and the need to finance your own protective suit. What has helped you survive this season, both personally and professionally?

I only take it once a day. I have a really nice vice-principal who runs the school directly and other great colleagues who keep me sane. By the way, a major cry to our school management team, school safety team, cafeteria employees, and guidance counselors. My husband has always been my rock and my best friend is an ICU doctor in Brooklyn. Nothing offers more prospects than hearing about her day in ICU. My cat is weird, but when I’m having a hard day, it sometimes strokes me.

You told Chalkbeat: “About 70% of my students are growing.” Why did some students succeed in learning online? How did you establish that companionship in the classroom?

Nancy Ye is posing with a stray cat rescued by some students. After that, her class helped confront adoption. She said some high school students ran to the nearest Bodega to buy cat food.
Courtesy of Nancy Ye

I asked the students exactly this question, but the general consensus is that being online in your room means you can focus on your lessons without distraction. Their friends don’t whisper about the latest dramas, and the boys they like aren’t smiling from the other side of the classroom. I keep track of my lessons so I can review them later and learn at my own pace, even if something doesn’t end during class time. Online testing is an open note that helps relieve anxiety when taking the test.

But they all also report a lot of loneliness. Staying at home all day makes it easier to study, but you can’t make friends. We started a freshman advisory class this year. Every Monday and Wednesday, we spend 45 minutes on various topics related to social emotional learning and civic activity. I’m also watching a documentary (“The Social Dilemma” was a big hit!) With chat commentary. We also did a lot of exercises to deepen community ties. I send my kids to Zoom’s breakout room and have Google Docs enter answers to questions such as: “What are the characteristics of each person?” Or “Why thank ____”. Everyone screamed, so no one felt left behind. Also, because it was entered anonymously, students no longer feel embarrassed to share something deeper and more meaningful.

You said your school didn’t have the resources you needed, even before the pandemic. How have you seen these inequality worsen over the last year or so?

The first and most obvious injustice is our school building itself. During the first year of teaching, part of the classroom ceiling (fortunately) collapsed into a row of empty desks. It shares the building with charter schools and other public schools. Our science classroom doesn’t have a working gas burner, so we can’t do the fun and informative labs I did in high school. Anyway, I had an inventory of chemicals and equipment. Not. We are overwhelmed by the chronic shortage of labor, the inability to secure good teachers, and the need to teach 5-6 classes of 30-34 students daily.I raised money all — I started a food pantry during the government shutdown in 2019, but my family received food stamps for February in mid-January and had to stretch until March.

Of course, this was only inside the school building. The students had their own hardships at home, but we had to walk around a lot during school days. Abused or absent parents, homeless students, nursing home students, students who had to work in an illegal shift of 12 hours after school just to support their family (a big problem for my seniors), Some students had chronic problems. Hunger, mass violence, students with imprisoned families and loved ones, students caring for their younger siblings.

We needed a variety of emotional, academic and social support in the classroom and from counselors and associates. Unfortunately, our counselors are also scarce: we have two high school counselors serving nearly 400 students and one junior high school counselor serving more than 200 students.

How do you think your school community supports students who are losing loved ones or suffering financial challenges?

During this pandemic, we have great guidance counselors and parental coordinators who have worked harder than ever, visited homes more often and even brought home groceries. Cafeteria employees come here every day to serve their students and then prepare breakfast and lunch for everyone in the community. Like me, the teachers have provided us with as much love and support as we can. Many students know my phone number and give me a message just to chat.

Given this year’s challenges, what specific mental health and learning support would you like your school to add?

Requires a smaller class size and duration. The only way to reduce the size of your class is to hire more teachers and build more schools and classrooms. I understand this is incredibly expensive, so I don’t think it will happen, but it is very difficult for teachers to distinguish learning support within the content material and to know each student at the individual level. It will be easy.

Perhaps more rational demands include hiring more school counselors and psychologists, funding after-school tutoring and Saturday sessions, funding non-academic extracurricular activities, and locals. To run a culinary club or restaurant in partnership with a non-profit organization. Gardening clubs and photography courses. You can also schedule regular advisory sessions at least twice a week. This allows students to return to socializing with each other in a non-academic environment with an advisory curriculum focused on social and emotional skills such as managing strong emotions and maintaining motivation. , And connect with your peers in a healthy way.

Tell us about your own experience at school and how it affected your work today.

I have always loved school. English was my second language because I moved from China to Canada when I was young, but from elementary school to junior high school, the most affectionate and supportive that welcomes me and makes me feel at home. I was blessed with teachers. I moved from Canada to the United States in the second half of middle school and high school. I also had a great experience there. The teachers were excellent and I had great resources. I succeeded in my studies and went to MIT for college. There, more resources were readily available and surrounded by literally geniuses. I also gave students access to the same (or similar) resources that I had when I was a teenager. I applied to the principal and received a $ 20,000 grant to start a robot club.

Colleagues, teachers and professors all inspired me to learn and love to learn. I bring that love of learning into the classroom every day.

Chalkbeat worked with Univision 41 to create this Pandemic 360 series.

Teacher: The year of COVID was not “lost”

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