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Classrooms during COVID

Faith Morelli, paraprofessional, PS 204, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

New York Teacher

I remember my grandmother talking about the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Her family left Manhattan to live upstate. I’ve been a paraprofessional for 24 years, and I never thought this would happen here.

Last year at this time, I would start my workday with students having breakfast at their desks and then I’d tell them, “Let’s get going.” I could help a student blow his nose, eat or use the facilities. Now I’m more cautious about things. In the beginning I was stand-offish, a little scared. But now I sit near the child, and we’re both wearing masks. Sometimes I have to remind students to “pull your mask up.” My day starts with a thorough cleaning of my work area. Even though I did it the previous day, I don’t know if anyone is using my space. We’ve had to change our lifestyles to deal with our fears.

I work one-on-one with students in 2nd and 3rd grades, but I can be utilized anywhere in the building if an aide or a paraprofessional is absent. I’ve done temperature checks and I’ve screened students, too. On days when I’m not in the classroom I’m a hall monitor, and I’ll do lunch duty if we’re short-staffed. I can be all over the building. When I go remote, I go into breakout rooms to help students who are struggling remotely.

It’s challenging for the students. With everyone wearing masks, I can no longer tell a student struggling with language to “look at my mouth.” Now I use an iPad and other electronic devices to communicate with the remote kids. It’s a whole new dynamic, a whole new job.

I have an 18-year-old daughter learning remotely at college. I think about what she’s missing. I’m glad we’re live in New York City public schools more this school year than last spring. Teaching in the classroom constitutes a small victory.

as told to reporter Linda Ocasio

Xue Qing Liang, chemistry teacher

Classrooms during COVID

To make the school year feel successful, educators are revising lesson plans, troubleshooting technology and investigating new strategies. Day by day, they’re figuring out what works for their students — and themselves. Read their stories.

Related Topics: Coronavirus, Pedagogy