The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken its toll on the field of education. School closures and awkward re-openings have required educators to manage schools in unprecedented ways. Not to mention the emotional trauma that many teachers and students have had to deal with as teaching and learning forged on. Increased stress levels have caused many educators to leave the field or seek to retire early. This is caused an increase in teacher vacancies which become opportunities for those who would like to work in the field.
Although the amount of these new teaching vacancies may make it easier for a candidate to land a job, it will take a slightly different skill set to be an effective teacher. Teaching pre-COVID-19 is very different from teaching post-COVID-19. Teacher candidates will need to champion different aspects of teaching in a post-COVID-19 environment.
Parent engagement definitely increased as a result of the pandemic. Many parents had to assist with their children in what started out as homeschooling at the beginning of the pandemic but evolved into virtual or hybrid learning. With brick and mortar schools closing, parents also had to become more responsive to various modes of communication with schools and teachers. As teacher candidates are working to get jobs, it will be key that they employ ways to capitalize on this level of parent engagement. They will also need to be creative, flexible, and quick to respond in their communication with parents.
Flexibility with Instructional Delivery
It is no secret that students learn in various formats and through a plethora of learning platforms. The pandemic confirmed this as teachers had to quickly pivot towards virtual learning. Although many teachers are still learning how to become savvy with this type of instructional delivery, there were many tools and strategies that were added to their teachers tool belts. In order to not only stay competitive but also be effective in a post-pandemic classroom, teacher candidates must know how to deliver instruction in a variety of formats. This may not be something that they learned as a pre-service teacher or even during student teaching. However, this has become a vital skill for all teachers.
It is important to remind ourselves that this pandemic is a traumatic experience for everyone. Although many may not feel like they are consciously experiencing high stress levels, there are many side effects that impact the subconscious which affect everyone. This includes students in classrooms. Trauma can slow down or completely stop a student’s ability to learn. Students who experience trauma on any level are more likely to fall behind in class or get in trouble for behavior. Educators must now arm themselves with training and professional development that speaks to this. There is a large body of work that shows teachers how to shift their instructional practices by analyzing how trauma impacts learning and behavior. Anyone who chooses to become an educator must also embrace this concept and adopt these practices.
The classroom has always been designed to be a safe haven for all students. Not every classroom functions in this way as it is dependent on the teacher’s approach and practices. Teachers must create an environment where students feel safe and free to be involved. It should be a space where everyone is accepted and included. When students are comfortable expressing themselves, teachers should capitalize on it and allow it to help them improve student learning. More now than ever, students want and need to come to classes where they feel protected and can be themselves. When looking for teaching jobs, candidates must fully share this mindset.
One of the drawbacks from virtual learning is that students lose opportunities to organically connect or socialize with their peers and teachers. Students cannot fully learn when there is no connection. Those students who have not been required to be in physical spaces or manage a face-to-face schedule or within a learning environment for several months will now need to be re-familiarized to the face-to-face school setting. This will require teachers to have incredible relationship building skills. Teachers must know how to quickly connect and build solid relationships with their students. Without this connection, classrooms could become toxic for students. Students will not care about what teachers want them to learn until they know how much teachers care about their lives and their feelings.
With this pandemic, it is amazing to see how well our school and community leaders have gone out of their way to hear the voices of our teachers. Regardless of position, level of success, educational degree or role as it relates to education, everyone wants to know what the opinion is of the teacher in order to determine next steps in navigating the pandemic. Those who want to join the ranks and serve as a teacher must know how to advocate for students. They must not only be in tune to what their students need but also know how to be a voice for their students at all times. As an advocate, teachers must be comfortable speaking up even when it will engage a tough conversation. Students deserve teachers who are not timid or passive when it comes to advocacy. As teacher candidates seek out opportunities to teach they must not forget that one of their greatest assets is to be the voice of those who are never heard.