May 3, 2022 -- There is no question that teaching during the pandemic has been enormously challenging, requiring teachers to completely adapt their teaching methods all while dealing with students’ growing behavioral issues, staff shortages, and emerging technologies.
But for Oxford kindergarten teacher Millie Litten, there’s been a silver lining. “I became a more resourceful and better teacher for it, and I’m seeing those results in my kids.”
She, like so many others, panicked when first sent home to teach online in the spring of 2020. “Everything changed, everything I know and everything I do well, I just couldn’t do anymore.” But once she realized they would again be teaching online for the 2020-21 school year, it forced her to grow.
All the procedures and policies that she had perfected in her 15 years of teaching had to be revamped. She had to learn how to use new technology herself while teaching it to her students while they were using the very technology they didn’t fully know how to use. “I definitely had to have stronger relationships with families,” she says, reporting that most of her students were being watched by grandparents and great-grandparents, who also had to learn the technology.
“There were things I didn’t think kindergarteners could do, but then they learned how to do them.”
She learned too, alongside her students. “But I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she says. “Everything they needed to learn, someone had already figured out how to teach.”
She enrolled in professional development over the summer of 2021 to further perfect the integration of technology into the kindergarten experience. “I still have to teach them how to interact and how to share, but it has to be done safely and with six feet of space.”
Ms. Litten now relies heavily on placement cards, that show children exactly where to sit or stand for certain activities, and on “number order,” where students are always next to the same classmates, making contact tracing easier. She reports fewer behavior problems this year despite having 25 students in her class.
There are challenges, no doubt, especially when they were still wearing masks full time. Understanding students’ enunciation or ability to break words up into sound segments is extra difficult when you can’t see someone’s mouth. But through “so much trial and error,” she’s learned new procedures and new curricular tools.
“I was forced to step out of my comfort zone,” she says. “But I really think that I became more knowledgeable and more excited to pass on that knowledge.”