By: Katy Thornwaite
Student teaching: the time in every education major’s career where they get to put into practice what they have spent the past three to four years learning about.
Things that have been talked about in theory, such as classroom management and curriculum design, are taken to the next level and implemented in the real world. Yet, I find myself facing things that were never discussed in my education classes, such as the ever-impending doom of school getting shut down due to a pandemic.
This year, I am student teaching at both Chamberlain Elementary and Waterford Elementary in the music classrooms. I see around 500 students per week, all with various backgrounds and life experiences.
I am also a part of the second Goshen College cohort of student teachers to be teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. While I hoped this school year would look slightly more normal than the last, it is very clear that COVID-19 is still as big a problem as it was when schools first went virtual in March 2020.
In terms of the students, they are resilient. I think everyone realizes that being in school with masks and social distancing is much better than being at home, isolated and learning through a computer. I have noticed that there are some students who have less-developed social skills than a child in a normal year would, but that makes sense given the way of life for the past year and a half.
Goshen Community Schools (GCS) started out this school year with no mask requirements. They wanted us to have a “normal school year.” I chose to teach wearing a mask, considering that my students are all part of a population that cannot get vaccinated, due to age.
By the end of the second week of school, GCS decided to mandate masks for all adults in K-6 buildings, shortly followed by a mandate for all K-6 students. They called this a temporary decision to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 that had already begun. It was a reactive measure rather than a preventative one.
The thing that scares me the most about student teaching doesn’t have anything to do with lesson planning or classroom management, which I’m sure would be the first thing to come to mind for anyone who student taught before the pandemic.
I am most scared of the consequences of ignoring science because masks have become politicized in our country. I’m scared that a student, teacher or even myself could potentially die because people don’t want to wear a piece of fabric to help protect others.
As someone who spends all day singing and dancing in a mask, I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t ideal. But that is what is going to keep us safe in school, which should be everyone’s first priority.
Now that I am a month into my experience as a student teacher, I can say confidently that I enjoy going to school every day. I enjoy growing as a professional, creating relationships with students, and helping students find joy in music.
But I know that all it could take is one uncontained COVID-19 case to send us back online.
I hope that I will be able to finish student teaching without having to switch to online learning, but without social distancing, masks and vaccines, it could be a real possibility. However, thanks to the precautions we have put into place, I trust we will be able to find meaningful learning opportunities for every child, despite a pandemic that tries to keep us out of school.