As school makes its way back into session, whether virtually for some or masked up and socially distanced for others, there’s no denying learning will look different from years past. With the changes to the school environment come all sorts of challenges, so much so that for Spring Branch Academic Institute teacher Kelly Treleaven, it feels like being a first-year teacher again.
“So many of the lessons and learning formats that are effective in-person aren’t possible or aren’t as effective for remote learning,” says Treleaven, who has been teaching English for 11 years. “So, making that transition takes a ton of time. We’re all exhausted for sure.”
A formerly anonymous blogger-turned-newly published author, Treleaven has been inspiring her fellow educators with insights into the classroom for almost a decade. Most recently she tackled the debate about reopening in-person learning in a New York Times op-ed. We talked to Treleaven about her thoughts and feelings for the upcoming semester and what led her to start her blog way back when.
What have been your thoughts watching this debate about whether schools should reopen, knowing the decision is going to affect you personally?
It’s been really hard to watch. Part of the country just has really ugly things to say about teachers, about how lazy we are and that we’re just money hungry. I understand where the push is on the side to reopen the schools, but at what price? I really worry for a country that holds so little value for teachers.
Why did you start your blog, Love, Teach?
I started my blog because teaching was much harder than I imagined it being. I could feel as soon as I started teaching that this was something I needed to be documenting—the changes that were happening within me and around me. There were just so many things I was witnessing around me that I had never encountered in my super-privileged upbringing, and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I originally started writing for my family and friends, and then it grew to people that I have never known and readers in other countries who were seeing the same thing I was seeing.
What led you to write the op-ed for The New York Times, and what were you hoping to convey to readers with that piece?
I felt like the conversation has already moved past whether or not it’s safe to open schools; so many states are moving forward knowing that it’s not safe. I'm more worried about the larger scope, looking past right now, and how is this going to affect teachers. I thought about how many teachers we’ve already lost this year due to retiring early and changing careers. I became really worried about how many are we going to lose, and how many of the ones we retain are going to look back on this time with disdain. What kind of profession are we going to have moving forward knowing that we were treated this way? What is the line where we say no more?
What are the new challenges teachers are facing to help keep students involved?
Access to, and the quality of, WiFi and large class sizes in virtual environments are very real concerns. Communication is always trickier over Zoom, no matter what. Students are reporting that it can feel very vulnerable being constantly on camera in front of all your classmates, whereas in a class you’re not always going to be visible to everyone all at one time.
How are students who do not have access to technology still learning?
That is probably the biggest challenge that districts face. I know some teachers are resorting to writing letters back and forth to their kids, because there is no WiFi at home and there is no way to get it to them.
What do teachers want parents to know about working together as a team for student success?
I worry about parents putting too much pressure on themself to suddenly be an educator, in addition to their other responsibilities, when really, we’ll deliver the instruction. Just work with us to see that it gets done. My biggest thing that I wish parents understood is have grace for yourself during this time and be kind to yourself. You’re not supposed to be an expert at this. This is crisis schooling, not "You’re a homeschooler now."
This interview has been edited and condensed.