A day in the life of a Bethel educator

Clover Creek first grade teacher Molly Trottman.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shifted the way we educate our students. All of our teachers have had to reshape and refine their skills to adapt to this new world, but the transition has been especially difficult for our elementary teachers.

Working with young students is challenging enough in a face-to-face classroom, but keeping the attention of a 5-year-old over Zoom can be a Herculean task.

Distance learning can be frustrating for everyone, including parents. Some elementary parents feel like they’re being asked to do too much and wonder why teachers can’t host more all-class Zoom sessions during the day.

So, what are our elementary teachers doing when they’re not leading Zoom classes? The short answer: Much more than you would imagine.

Clover Creek Elementary first grade teacher Molly Trottman has been an educator for eight years, and to say she loves her job would be a massive understatement.

“I enjoy the fun conversations I get to have with the little ones. I enjoy the lightbulb moments,” she said. “I enjoy the progression, seeing them come in with letter sounds, but then learning to read paragraphs.”

Trottman has seen a lot during her years in the classroom, but she said the recent move to distance learning has been the most difficult period of her career. Not only do she and her co-workers have to teach their students, but they also have to work closely with parents to make sure they have the skills to help when teachers aren’t available.

“So we’re teaching our students, but we’re also teaching our parents how to say sounds and how to do math strategies so they can help facilitate that within their homes,” she said.

Teachers know how difficult this situation can be for both parents and students, so they’re doing everything in their power to ensure our students aren’t falling behind. For Trottman and many of her co-workers, that has meant doing things they’ve never done in the past, such as giving out their personal cell phones and encouraging parents to call for help.

Trottman also leaves her Zoom link open all day, just in case parents need to jump on for a quick question.

On a typical Monday, Trottman and her co-teacher will do one main Zoom meeting with the entire class. Once that class is done, the teachers will begin their one-on-one Zoom meetings, where students can get help with specific problems they’re having.

Next, they begin working on videos that are needed for both live Zoom sessions and the pre-recorded presentations students use for homework. In order to make each video, teachers have to first create as many as 20 educational slides and SeeSaw activities to go with each video.

Trottman creates five unique videos each week, and when she finishes those videos she moves on to creating slides and activities for her live Zoom sessions.

Once all of her daily teaching and preparation work is finished, Trottman begins the arduous process of giving feedback to her students and parents.

“In the classroom we can give instant feedback. Now we have 100 or more assignments coming back to us every day. It consumes us,” she said. “Also in primary grades our feedback is verbal, because we have many developing readers. This means we have to be in a quiet place with no background noise, which can be difficult sometimes.”

If she senses a student is falling behind, Trottman does everything in her power to keep them motivated. That has meant physically driving to her students’ homes to give them socially-distanced pep talks. In fact, she said the biggest silver lining to the pandemic is that she and her fellow teachers have gotten a chance to really get to know their students and families in a way that they hadn’t in the past.

All of the work and stress can be overwhelming, but Trottman says it’s all worth it to see her students continuing to grow and learn.

“I just want parents to know that all the teachers I know have one goal in mind: to do what’s best for kids and families,” she said. “We’re really just trying to serve them and help them grow. We always have their best interest in mind, and we love them from a distance.”

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.