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Taft Today

Taft Today

We’ve Evolved; It’s Time for Schools to Evolve Too

Courtesy of Google Images.
Courtesy of Google Images.

Students and teachers have been getting more and more tired. Work and life continue to pile on top of each other causing stress and anxiety. With all these emotions running high, many people are getting frustrated and something needs to change.

For a long time, the school system has not been adapted to correlate with the needs that students have. It has been behind and students are not getting the proper attention that they have begun to need over the years. Covid has especially shown how students have changed and the school system has not.

Due to Covid, many students experienced delays academically. According to Darren Tuggle, IB Language and Literature teacher, “I think that students have lost some of the “grit” that they have had in the past. When things get difficult, many just quit.” When students are unable to push themselves to work, teachers are unable to succeed in helping students grow.

Covid also caused a lot of social and emotional delays in students. According to Sadie Gibbons, a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Special Education teacher for grades 6 through 8 at Jamieson Elementary, “I don’t have personal experience with my students pre-Covid, but I have been able to witness how Covid has held my specific demographic of students back significantly in the social and emotional aspect.”

Some students have developed habits that they learned from Covid and remote learning that they still carry with them. Some examples from Gibbons are, “Entitlement to technology, inability to have in-person conversations with peers or adults, and struggle with age-appropriate social skills.” 

The difference is just as noticeable to students as well. “I feel like the motivation to succeed before Covid was so much higher,” said Taft junior Awnen Grant.

A very common stressor for many students is homework. Many students feel that homework causes them stress, but they also understand why they have it. “Homework is definitely stressful, but obviously that is required because I can’t do all the learning at school. I have to practice at home,” said Grant.

Other students feel that having stressed teachers increases the stress that the students feel. Molly Donlin, a Taft junior, said, “When they are stressed out they aren’t as nice to their students.” This just goes to show that having teachers who are dealing with stress is not helpful to the students in the room.

The way that students feel is important, but it is also important to understand that teachers have similar feelings and they feel the stress and anxiety too.

According to Mary Parenti, Preschool Teacher at Jamieson Elementary, “Things like preparing for observations, taking assessment data, planning units, managing behavior, communicating with parents, they all compile together to create a large workload.” 

All the teachers that I spoke with are aware that these tasks are important, but they wish that there was more freedom within the tasks they are required to do. Tuggle stated, “Meetings are an important part of what we do, but there is only so much time.” 

“I wish I had more self-directed planning time to get some of the work done away from my students. That way, when I am in front of them, I can focus on my instruction,” said Parenti.

When it comes to how the teachers feel, they hope that they are able to keep their emotions from affecting the students, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid. “I’d like to think that I protect my students as much as possible from my stress, but I am sure that I get frustrated and take it out on them,” Tuggle said.

According to Parenti, “As I am teaching them formative and important emotional regulation and social skills, it is important for me to be a model and demonstrate keeping myself calm and regulated.” It is just as important for teachers to be able to model healthy behavior for their students so that they can also feel able to express their emotions in a healthy way.

It is also very hard to have a healthy school-home balance for both the teachers and the students as well. 

Teachers have taken personal days to catch up on work which causes difficulty when trying to separate your home life from your work life. Tuggle said, “I know teachers who take personal days to catch up on work.” This is something that is sadly common among both students and teachers.

For teachers, it can be just as hard to leave any personal things at school. Many teachers are a safe space for students and as it is helpful for the students to have this safe space, it can also cause teachers to take those issues home as well. 

According to Gibbons, “My thoughts outside of work are consumed with things like ‘I hope so-and-so is okay at home tonight.’” However, making a positive impact is also important. “I love what I do and the impact I’m making in the lives of my students and our school, but I do wish the heavy stuff could be left at the door when I leave Jamieson every day,” said Gibbons.

There are many possible solutions to these problems and I believe that they should be addressed. Many of these solutions are very similar because many of the issues that are being faced are just as similar. 

One solution that people can begin with is acknowledging the problem. Some people are simply blind to these issues because they are not living with the problems that the teachers and students are facing. Others may just be choosing to ignore the issues because they do not directly affect them.

Giving teachers more time to prepare is something else to start with. As Tuggle said, meetings are important sometimes, but there is just not enough time. Starting with giving less time to meetings and more time to personal planning/work time may be more effective than diminishing personal work time to make a meeting that could have just been more quickly addressed in an announcement.

Easing the stress that teachers face can begin to help ease the stress that students face. If the teachers are able to have more freedom with how they plan lessons and give assessments based on the needs of each class they have, the students would be more able to get the attention they need and that can begin to relieve the stress from students.

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About the Contributor
Mary Connolly, Reporter