Pandemic is a Game Changer for SHS Teachers

Ellie Snow and Ainsley Hayes

Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year, Scituate teachers were given the option of applying for an unpaid leave of absence from their jobs, or maintaining their expected salary while teaching in the hyrid format. Teachers who returned to SHS were, of course, putting their health and safety–as well as the health and safety of their loved ones–on the line. Nevertheless, most faculty members returned to school in the fall. For many teachers, however, this was not an easy decision, and it required changing their fundamental teaching style.
During these unprecedented times, the country has been met with a wave of financial darkness as Americans struggle to make ends meet. According to the Pew Research Center, since COVID-19 emerged, one-in-four American adults are struggling to pay bills. Teachers, many of whom have financial obligations and families to support, are no exception.
SHS math teacher, Phillip Blake, who has a baby daughter with his wife, who is also a teacher, expressed financial security as a primary reason for his decision to participate in the hybrid model this year. “I wouldn’t have taught if I had the financial means to stay home with my daughter for the year. I would if I could, but I can’t,” explained Blake.
SHS English teacher Anne Blake (no relation to Phillip Blake), who is also married with a young daughter, faced similar stressors with the year’s abnormal teaching structure. Blake explained, “I can’t afford to live my life and pay for my house and pay bills without a job. We were kind of given the option to take the year with no pay, and I didn’t have that option.”
Though financial stability was a large part of their decision, SHS teachers also shared a strong desire to give their students some sense of normalcy. Expressing her concern that students “have lost out on so much already” as a result of the pandemic, Anne Blake said, “I didn’t want another thing that you lose to be good teachers–or teachers who care about you.” Many SHS teachers mirrored Blake’s selfless attitude toward this school year. Under the circumstances, participating in the hybrid model gives students and teachers a chance to engage in classroom learning–even if it means putting personal safety at risk.
Teachers are also challenged to instruct students who chose to be in Cohort C as full-time remote learners. In an effort to make their virtual classroom experience match the dynamics of in-class instruction, teachers such as Phillip Blake are teaching in an asynchronous format. “I teach the same lesson simultaneously to in-person and virtual kids. I want everyone to get the same lesson,” elaborated Blake, as he described the set-up of his teaching plan this year. With this format, teachers like Blake are essentially meeting the educational needs of three different groups of students at the same time: those students who are sitting in the classroom, those who are in school two days per week under the hybrid model, and those who are home full-time. Blake feels asynchronus teaching enhances learning among his math students.
Creating a sense of classroom unity during a pandemic is challenging. However, SHS Foreign Language Department Chair Kathryn Ciulla recognizes that defeating this virus requires “a real strong effort from everybody.” With communal unity and respect for everyone’s sacrifices, Ciulla feels we will overcome the burdens of the ever-present pandemic. For students and families at SHS, this would mean admiring the magnanimous sacrifices Scituate teachers are making every day to make their students’ lives a little bit easier, whether it be behind their computer screens or across the classroom.