After a few difficult years, 3 teachers discuss what they anticipate for the start of the school year
BALTIMORE — In just one week, teachers across the state will return to their schools to prepare for the 2022 school year.
I sat down with three teachers from Baltimore County to find out how they’re doing after a very difficult few years and to see if they anticipate anything like a “normal school year.”
Although Katherine Mullen, a veteran high school history teacher, said she “threw the word ‘normal’ out the window a long time ago, probably two years ago.”
Sitting alongside Leonard Foust Jr., a high school media and broadcasting teacher, and Christina Phillips, a middle school Spanish teacher, Mullen said schools are “a microcosm of the community” as families grapple to increased violence, inflation and consequences. of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve had a lot of students who have lost multiple family members to COVID and I’ve lost family members to COVID,” said Phillips, who is entering her fifth year of teaching.
Foust, who taught for 15 years, said students carry that baggage into the classroom.
“And when they come with that background, we have to make them feel comfortable enough to teach the material,” he said.
All three agreed that teacher burnout is a problem and one of the reasons there is a nationwide shortage of educators.
“The workload was unmanageable even before the pandemic, but when we went back there last year, I think a lot of teachers last year have just reached breaking point,” Mullen said.
Phillips added: “And a lot of them are people who love education, who love students. But the workload is untenable. For their health and for their sanity in particular, they had to go.”
The trio said teachers aren’t necessarily respected as experts, but many parents have discovered how difficult the job can be with remote learning.
“And the parents wanted them back in class immediately,” Foust said with a smile.
Mullen, Phillips and Foust said they were aware of the mental health crisis facing college students, pointing to increased levels of social anxiety.
“That’s probably the most I’ve had to be able to stop and really ask a student, ‘How are you? How are you?'” Foust said.
Some students answered “No”.
“A lot of students come to school because they know someone will ask them that. They know someone will ask them,” Mullen said. “And they’re not well and they need someone to find out.”
Even with all of these challenges, Mullen is excited for the school year.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “Despite all those things we just said, it’s so much fun.”