Teacher Stories: Caitlin Gioe, Stafford Intermediate School, 5th and 6th Grade Drama and Social-Emotional Learning Teacher
“I teach over 700 students anti-bullying, communication, mindfulness, and a lot of other life skills. I teach this to every fifth grader and every sixth grader in the school district. Teaching them remotely has been a mixed bag so far. I had a student that had a meltdown at home. It probably was a result of the current situation, and he was so frustrated. His mom told me, ‘He clicked on Google Classroom,’ – which is one the tools I use, ‘And he clicked on one of your activities, which had him going outside for one, listen to the sounds around you, and then write down and tell me what he heard.’ He did, and his mom said he came back inside and he totally had turned everything around. He went form this miserable, crying, upset person, to ‘Ok, I’m ready! Let’s go!’ And his mom was like, ‘Thank you!’ So my class is able to help the students who are willing to give it a shot.
“Being a remote teacher is hard for what is considered a ‘special area teacher,’ like music, art, drama, and gym. It is hard because academics are eating all of their time up right now. The classroom teachers seem to be doing ok, but it is very stressful for them as well. It is like recreating the wheel. As much as the internet is a great tool, it’s just not the same. For us special area teachers, the big challenges have been just getting the kids to come to us. Because by the time they are done with their lessons for the day, they don’t want to be near the computer anymore. They want to go outside and play, and they are like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll check back later.’ But not many do. I would say that I have about 300 out of 700 students check in for my drama and social-emotional learning classes, which is pretty good, and we have some ideas how to increase those numbers after spring break.
“It was so sad, before schools shifted to remote learning; my 4th and 5th graders had their musical and concert coming up on March 25th. It was Frozen, and we had a hundred and twenty-one students who were going to perform. But before they closed the school, I just had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were going to be closing schools down before they could do the show. Sure enough, they did. I tell their parents to tell their kids to keep practicing because hopefully we will be back and have the show still.
“I think the hardest thing for me with all of this is I need to be with my students. All of the teachers will say the same thing. Even just writing down the directions and having them read them and understand them is so challenging. I will videotape myself reading the directions, and I will write them very simply, but it is still a challenge for the students to get the assignments done correctly. I never thought this would be as difficult as it is. It really is like recreating the wheel. I have been a drama teacher for 16 years, and you would think after 16 years, I could just whip out some activities and it would be great, but noooo! There are so many challenges. This video conference with you and me is one on one, but when you have 1 on 25, or 1 on 30, it is so hard.
“It has also been hard on my family. My husband has a form of lupus, called mixed tissue connective disorder, and we have to be so careful. Our daughter is 23 and lives on her own now, and we cannot even see her, and hug her now. She just drops off groceries at our front steps because I am too afraid to go out and get my husband sick, so I don’t go out at all. So we have been locked in the entire time. And when my daughter drops off our groceries, I want to hug her so bad, but I can’t and it’s so sad that I can’t even do that.”
To keep morale up for her students Caitlin Gioe produced her own SGN (Some Good News) Stafford Edition video segment, inspired by the SGN efforts of actor John Krasinski. Check it out here.
- Interview and photograph by Gregory Andrus