by Marc Helgeson | April 25, 2020 5:02 pm
If you thought the four years leading up to being a senior in high school were bad, just wait until you’ve spent four years waiting to be a senior in college. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kiera Donnamario. I spent three of my four lovely years at RBHS as a member of the Clarion as both a staff reporter and the Public Relations Editor among other extracurriculars. After high school, I ventured out to the cornfields of Dekalb, Illinois to obtain my Bachelor of Arts in History and Social Studies Secondary Education from Northern Illinois University. My anticipated graduation date was May 9th, 2020, but, of course, plans changed.
I have spent the last four years preparing for my final college adventure: student teaching. If you don’t know, student teaching happens during an education major’s final semester of college. They work one-on-one with a cooperating teacher (CT for short) who opens up their classroom to them. That student teacher eventually takes over and runs the show; attendance, grading, teaching, lesson planning. It’s all on them. It is, by far, the best part about being an education major. You get to really discover who you are as an educator and how you’ll one day run your own classroom. I’ve spent time in several different classrooms all across the state of Illinois but none will compare to my final classroom: B106 at Larkin High School.
I spent the last seven months at Larkin working with my awesome CT teaching classes like Psychology, Sociology, and AP Gov. The first half of those seven months, I went one day a week but when student teaching began, I was there everyday from 7:15 to 3:15 (school starts at 7:40 and ends at 2:55) as it was basically my full-time job. While exhausting, the time I spent there both semesters was full of the most memorable experiences of my life thus far.
March 13th, 2020 changed everything. My psych students (the class I taught four periods of), were just beginning our new unit on psychoactive drugs. That day, so many of my students were distracted, asking me questions about if I thought we’d be at school the following week due to the fast-spreading Coronavirus. Other schools in Illinois were closing due to it, so why wouldn’t we? “I don’t know, we’ll have to see what happens” was my response. At the end of 7th period, an announcement was made that all students needed to leave with their Chromebooks and chargers. This sparked more questions, and I did not have any answers. I left school that day and said goodbye to my CT and the other teachers in the department, saying I would see them on Monday. Wow, was I wrong.
After school that day I got the announcement that my district was closing until March 31st due to COVID-19 concerns. We were given the two weeks completely off (one of the weeks was spring break), so it worked out. My CT and I decided we would just pick up where we left off when school returned and it’d be no big thing.
Plot twist: it was a big thing.
Next thing we knew, school was postponed until April 7th. Then April 13th. Then April 30th. Postponing turned to cancelled, and that was that.
We began our version of e-learning, distance learning, on April 1st, trying to piece back together what we left in the school. Our students don’t have access to their textbooks at home, which forces us to get creative with planning. So far, it’s been pretty successful. Psychology is a subject that many of them enjoy (as it’s an elective), so they like doing the work for it. My CT and I are in contact regularly, and I will be remaining a co-teacher until the end of Larkin’s school year.
Everything surrounding distance learning though, has been a nightmare. My sister is a COVID-19 survivor (see Day #37’s entry). On top of taking care of her while she was sick, I am still trying to graduate. One of my program requirements, as well as a requirement to become an educator in Illinois, is completing and passing the edTPA, a content specific performance based assessment for teacher candidates’ to determine whether or not they are ready to teach. All of the prep work had been done (i.e. video recording myself teaching, the lesson plans, etc), but now it came down to writing the whole thing out (3 different writing tasks, each from 6-9 pages long). My NIU teacher besties and I were supposed to meet to do it together over our spring break but it was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Anyone who has obtained an educator licensure in the last few years will tell you edTPA is terrible. It is stressful, and if you don’t answer their prompts in a way that really proves your reasoning and explanation, you don’t pass. Not to mention, it’s $300 to just submit it. Doing it on my own with virtual support from my friends and NIU advisor while attempting to take care of my sister with my mom and plan for distance learning with my CT was a nightmare. Oh, and don’t forget applying for jobs. I felt like I was pulled in seven different directions at once. I submitted a few weeks later than I wanted to because of it, but it be like that sometimes.
As of right now, I am anxiously awaiting my edTPA results (stay tuned for April 30th), applying for jobs, and spending the rest of my newfound free time playing “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” on the Nintendo Switch. I’m still going to graduate in May, but the ceremony has been postponed until August (for now). As for student teaching, my program wraps up on April 24th, but I am extending my virtual stay to not miss out on time with my students, even if it’s at a distance. On my unofficial last day back in March, I told one of my students I was scared it’d be the last time I’d see her. Who knew my biggest fear would come true.
I hope you all are taking this seriously. COVID-19 is not a joke. It has taken away so much from not only me, but my friends, my sister, and other seniors (high school and college) everywhere. If I can teach y’all three things, it’d be to stay home, wash your hands, and wear a mask if you have to go out. It’s that simple.
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