6 a.m. – I start my day by checking emails. Many of my colleagues are up late at night catching up on communications, so I have to get an early start to respond.

7 a.m. – Time to post an attendance question. Students will answer it, and this will give me an idea of who has logged on once the school day starts.

8-9 a.m. – Take stock of which students are online and which aren’t. Any who haven’t responded to the attendance question get a call to their home to check in. Attendance for the day needs to be submitted by 9 o’clock.

9 a.m.-3 p.m. – The school day! I have three classes of English learners, with a total of 39 students.

    • Develop individualized learning packets for students, some of which must comply with IEPs (Individualized Education Program). That might mean retyping directions to accommodate reading skills, etc.
    • Calls to connect with individual students, go over directions, clarify expectations
    • Field phone calls from parents to address any questions, concerns, technology challenges, etc. These can take anywhere from 15 minutes to trouble-shoot a computer issue, to an hour-long call comforting a parent who is panicked about helping their student through distance learning.
    • Plan, tape and post instructional videos that will get posted to Class Dojo from the mini-classroom I created in my spare room at my home. Ensure all appropriate links are included in the week’s paper packets.
    • Once a week, head to the school to make copies, collate and label paper packets that school staff will distribute to students
    • Adjust learning plans and packets for individual students, as needed
    • Collaborate with other teachers, as needed

3-6 p.m. – Time to return phone calls from parents, many of whom work during the day and aren’t available earlier.

6 p.m. – Dinner! Time to eat, finally!                                                                    _                                                                                        –     – 

7 p.m. and beyond – Time to grade. This is time-consuming with 39 students who are turning in work every week. I also need to tackle tasks related to being the Teacher of the Year each evening.

Every day looks a little bit different, but this is an idea of what it’s like to teach during a pandemic. Even during a typical school year, I’ve stayed late at work, but distance learning takes a lot more work, from both teachers and parents.

Educators are wearing more hats than usual. We’re emotional support for parents, tech support, and more. And surprisingly, I’m spending even more of my own money than I have in the past. This is especially frustrating, since I have many materials in my classroom that can’t be accessed while the schools remain locked down.

My time teaching remotely has taught me flexibility. It’s taught me to read between the lines and listen for when parents are stressed, and it has reminded me that every family – and child – has unique needs.

I’m grateful for the cautious approach that my school is taking. The health and safety of the community is first and foremost and our school administration and Tribal administration are ensuring that. It is through this cautious approach that student and family needs are being addressed with care and thoughtfulness.

As we navigate the school year together, I’m encouraging parents to communicate clearly. When there is an issue, reach out to your child’s teacher and open that line of communication. Present the issue, as well as a possible solution. Don’t wait until the issue has developed into something bigger.

Don’t forget to have your child take brain breaks throughout the day. It is unrealistic that a child to be online for an entire school day. Their brains need a break. As a teacher who is online all day, I know first-hand how looking at a screen can tire your eyes and overwhelm your brain.

Lynette Stant is a 3rd grade teacher at Salt River Elementary School and is the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.