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Classrooms during COVID

Tricia Donnelly, pre-K teacher, PS/IS 127, East Elmhurst, Queens

New York Teacher

Before the school year began, I actually thought it was shameful that the mayor was trying to open schools. But then as we got used to being in the building in September, we were rolling. There weren’t many guidelines for pre-K, so we were going at it on our own. I set up my classroom and I was there for two weeks with the children, happy and excited, and then I was told that I was being reassigned to a remote pre-K class.

It was heartbreaking. All of a sudden to shift and do something different — I went home and cried. But I had the skills in remote teaching that I had taught myself in March, and the kids have been excellent. In pre-K, everything is hands-on, so I have to be very creative about the activities I do with the children. My heart goes out to the families because it’s a struggle for them. I have some families still waiting for devices and some families where siblings are left to help the younger kids.

The idea of trying to teach independence in remote pre-K is a struggle. My kids are four years old, so they do need a parent or someone to sit with them in meetings. Sometimes because children are sitting with an adult, the adults do the work for them. When I ask a question, I see the kids looking away at their adult for the answer. It’s a concern because when they get to kindergarten next year, they’ll be there by themselves.

Even though all of my students are remote, I teach part of the time from home and part of the time from my school building. My school set it up so that everybody got to have some days at home — ultimately they were trying to be fair. But going into the building to teach remotely is like rubbing salt into a wound. I love being in my classroom, but I love being in my classroom with children. I’m a little sad every day walking into my empty classroom.

As much as I miss in-person teaching, I do enjoy working with my remote class. We have something good going — everything’s calm and smooth. We have a lot of fun together and laugh all the time.

as told to reporter Rachel Nobel

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.