Shane T. Watson: Welcome to project teacher's lounge, where we talk to educators about their time working during the COVID-19 pandemic. My name is Shane T. Watson, and I'll be your host to. The K through 12 educators out there, I want to say, thank you. Thank you for your service as a teacher. Y'all do a lot during a regular school year and to be doing it during a pandemic just, wow.
Y'all have the utmost appreciation. Admiration and respect from me. You are a true superhero for putting in the extra work to help students become the leaders they will be in the future or whatever they decide to become. Thank you.
Trina Trosclair: Thank you. Thank you.
Trina Trosclair is a seventh grade English language arts teacher in Louisiana. She has the graciously decided to sit down and answer some questions today and tell us about her time teaching during the pandemic. So how have you been?
I've been very well, my husband, I've been pretty lucky in the fact that we haven't been affected by COVID very much. We’ve managed to stay healthy throughout all of it, but it has thrown some challenges our way in terms of work for both of us and just how we go about our day-to-day lives. So it definitely has been a challenge.
And let's start with how you got into teaching. Did you always want to be a teacher or what influenced you to become a teacher? How long have you been teaching?
I'm currently on my seventh year of teaching and the earliest I can remember wanting to be a teacher– My parents used to always say at elementary school, when you used to fill out the little forms “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I used to always say a teacher, but I would say probably when I was in high school, I had an English and a composition teacher that really inspired me to pursue English. She just made reading and writing fun. She’d bring in novels that most teachers wouldn't bring in. She'd give us writing prompts that were just thrown at us from left field. And it just really made you think. And she's my inspiration. I wanted to be just like her.
Nice. As we said, teachers have a huge impact on the leaders that students become and your English teacher had a huge impact on you.
And so how are you teaching this year? Is it virtual? Is it hybrid? Is it in person? Has it switched up? How's that going?
It is a mix. We have some students who are with us in the classroom, but at the same time, we have students who are virtual and we have to teach both of them at the same time.
So I'm looking at kids in the classroom while also looking at kids on the computer at the same time.
That just sounds like a lot.
That is the biggest challenge of all, because I feel like sometimes, there’s not enough of me to go around. I'm trying to help kids in the room, but then I feel like while I'm helping those kids, there's the kids on the computer that I might, I'm not addressing. So it's like I'm being pulled in two different directions.
Going off that a little bit. Can you take us through a day in your life as a teacher? When you get to the school, you're at the parking lot, you open the door to your car. What comes next?
So open the door of my car. I walk in, I've got my mask on. I've got the rest of my gear on. I come into my classroom, just get my technology, my smart board, my computer, all that set up. When the bell rings for the kids to come in, we stand by our doors. We have to take our advisory students’ temperatures before they walk into the room. We have to record what their temperatures are.
They're all wearing masks. The only time they're allowed to take it off is to eat. Once school starts, we're teaching. We jump right into teaching. So there are some kids in the room. There are some kids on the computer and then I have three classes for 90 minutes. So it's a mixture of me teaching and helping and troubleshooting technology.
We do get one 90 minute block off. So in that block, we could be PLCing, eating lunch, attending virtual parent meetings, conference meetings, team meetings. So we really, from 7am - 2:30pm, we don't really stop.
Wow. And you said PLCing. And what exactly is that?
That’s a professional learning community. So it's myself and two other seventh grade English teachers. And two times a week we get together and we either talk about planning. We talk about student data. We look at student work and we pick out trends and we figure out what interventions need to be done, just to keep us all on the same track and on the same pace.
Got it. And so you're a teacher of English Language Arts, which includes writing, I imagine. How is it going teaching students how to write in seventh grade on laptops, I imagine? Do they know how to type? Is typing a part of that? Do you think it's easier to teach on a computer or for them to be writing it out by hand?
So lucky for us our school is a one-to-one school, so every child has had a Chromebook since, I want to say we start them off in third grade. So they're pretty used to typing. Because of this year we really haven't been able to do much handwriting stuff because of paper and all that. So the typing is not really an issue.
It's more of us showing them what good writing looks like. So we do a lot of strong models. We show them weak models. We do a lot of samples together. We'll create a class sample together. And it's that one-on-one time just with that student, looking at what they have, looking at criteria of what's the expectation, and having them make adjustments from feedback and things like that.
Gotcha. So you said at 2:30 you're done for the day. Are you really done or that the kids are gone and you get to do more work?
So the kids leave at 2:30. I have tried to make it a habit, especially this year, not to bring so much home with me, but obviously that doesn't always work. So sometimes I will spend maybe 30 minutes to an hour either grading, finishing up my plans for the next day.
Sometimes, possibly making phone calls to parents, making parent contact or every now and then I'll have meetings after school that could last anywhere from hour to an hour and a half. So it’s not always [that] I’m completely done. you say sometimes to may cause the parents,
You say sometimes you make calls to parents. How has parent involvement been since you do have students at home and in the classroom? What does that parent involvement been? Is it better than before? Or is it worse than before? Is it just all over the place?
I would say it's a lot better than previous years because parents– they know that they cannot just as easily come to the school and meet with us face to face as they could before.
We rely a lot on phone calls. We rely a lot on emails and some parents have access to computers where we could do Google meets, zooms, things like that. So I would say it's definitely a lot better. And parents for the most part are really good about if they can't come to the phone. If you leave a voicemail, they've usually call back within a reasonable time. I really haven't had any parents this year who just blatantly haven't heard from or communicated with.
Gotcha. And thinking about just the families, I know it's a pandemic, people have lost jobs. Have you experienced students who have gone through hardships during this time? And if so, how has your school provided resources to help those families?
No student has told me directly of any hardships, but you always see students who have hardships even without the pandemic. Like I know during the winter months, we're always on the lookout for kids who don't come to school with like warm winter coats or things like that. So we're really good about keeping an eye out for those types of kids and letting the administration know, and we give them jackets or we give them access to jackets.
We also provide food and snacks for those kids to take home that may not have access to healthy meals at home. So we're generally trying to keep a good eye out for any kids that we feel are in need of anything.
Are there any cases where students, teachers, faculty, staff have– I know HIPAA, like they can't tell you if you have tested positive for COVID but have there been situations where people have been removed from the classroom because of COVID.
Yes. Yeah. You're right. So we can't tell anybody this person has tested positive, but we have had people go on quarantine where they're out for 8-10 days. And it used to be sometimes 14. In those cases, they have an option. If they're really really sick, they can take their normal COVID sick days.
Some teachers who were just quarantining and not necessarily sick, had the option to what we call tele teach so they could teach virtually from home while a couple of other teachers would just rotate in and out of their room, just watching the kids. while they're teaching virtually from home. So there are options there for teachers to still be able to teach while on quarantine.