Teacher Stories: Steven Ricci, Colts Neck Cedar Drive Middle School, Grades 6 – 8 Health and Phys. Ed.
I was told growing up that teachers do not make enough money; that you will never amount to anything if you become a teacher. I thought that was true, so I went to college as a Criminal Justice major, but by sophomore year, I knew I wanted to be a teacher: that I didn’t want to be a cop. I really enjoyed teaching kids so I changed my career path halfway through college, and even though it cost me an extra year, I am doing what I love.
When COVID hit, and the kids learned remotely, it had been tough with the new way they had us teach. I had to teach the kids gym virtually, as well as in person. Most schools went fully virtual for the first half of the school year, but with our school they have all the kids split up in two schedules, half the school two days a week, the other half the other two days a week, and Friday fluctuates. There are days that I don’t see kids for 5 days straight.
It is hard to stay sane with keeping everything in order. There is so much to balance and keep track of between the work needed for the kids doing both virtual and in-school. No one was prepared for this. I didn’t get training in school about what to do if there is a pandemic. All I can do is my best to make sure that one, the kids are getting their education, and two, that they are safe. But I also have to worry about if I am staying safe, if someone who has COVID comes in contact with me. And that happened at my school, and I had to be sent home and quarantined for two weeks. I didn’t have COVID – I tested negative three different times – but I was told I still had to stay home for the safety of everyone, which I completely understood. Then all of the sudden I had to teach kids that were in school virtually from my house while I was quarantined. Meanwhile there was a substitute in my classroom while I was virtually teaching to make sure the kids are not getting into trouble and doing what they were told.
This has definitely brought me and my colleagues together. We are all going through this together, and we are in this together. The parents feel stressed with how much everything has changed, and the teachers definitely take the brunt end of it. The parents have questioned why their kids have to wear masks, or why their kid is not doing well under the new circumstances and I ask the parents to please have patience. We are all doing the very best we can. Teaching with the mask on is a challenge for sure. They cannot see me smiling, and that is sad. Sometimes a smile can change a whole kid’s day around, and they can’t see mine. But I keep pushing forward, keep smiling, even if the kids can’t see it.
- Interview by Gregory Andrus. Photo supplied by Steven Ricci.