The pandemic has been a learning experience for everyone, especially local teachers. Over the course of months, teachers, administration staff and students adapted to new teaching methods by addressing ongoing concerns in the field of education.

Eric Krause is an experienced teacher who has worked at Midland High School since 1996. However, the pandemic provided some valuable lessons and insights to the math teacher and boys basketball college coach.

One of the most important lessons Krause learned from the pandemic was to become more technical. As schools closed in mid-March 2020, virtual learning was introduced and continued through the end of the school year. The Virtual Academy was made available to all school levels at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, as well as a hybrid option that combines virtual and personal classrooms. According to a document released by the office of Midland Public School Supervisor Michael Sharrow, the rapid shift to a virtual approach to learning was made possible by a team effort by educators and student families.

“We know that our educational landscape has changed forever with the addition of teaching technology tools that enhance communication, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, innovation and above all increase access to learning experiences and resources,” the statement said.

Krause welcomed mixed classes, stating that the inclusion of distance learning provided a good idea for 11th and 12th graders as they prepared for college. One hurdle for virtual classrooms, however, was the difficulty of helping students become more engaged.

“If we had to go back to all the virtual ones, we would be better prepared to try to raise the level of engagement,” Krause said. “Isolation was certainly not positive. Contributed to mental health issues… You take for granted the interaction of young adults. ”

In March 2020, the Michigan High School Athletic Association instructed member schools to suspend activities for all sports, effectively canceling the basketball season along with every other sport. The next school year sports seasons started with bumps as the state continued to postpone the return date for winter contact sports.

Krause was pretty sure the schools would not have a basketball season. Restrictions were eventually lifted enough for winter sports to continue and the MHS boys basketball team had its first game in February. Krause recalled how the shorter deadline for internships made it easier for him to simplify what the team needed to work on instead of taking a broader approach to coaching.

“When you love something … you just get excited that you can compete and play,” Krause said. “It was one of my favorite training moments.”

A learning moment

The past year and a half, especially during the blockade, has been a surreal experience for Krause. Working from home, it was strange to get away from the regimented daily schedule, where every lesson began and ended with the sound of a bell. One challenge for Krause was to think outside the box and create his own schedule. Returning to personal classes this year was a welcome experience for him as he enjoyed the feeling of energy to be back in the school building.

The pandemic has affected Krause’s mental health in subtle ways. As an educator, he worked with situations before him day in and day out, week after week, handling things as best he could. Only a few months later he realized how serious things were. Now, he believes he is better prepared to deal with more discouraging elements because he has already passed it.

“Midland Public Schools did a great job. The natural reaction was to say we were fine, but looking back, we did not know what we were getting into.”

Krause strongly considered retirement in 2020, but the pandemic prolonged his decision to retire. He explained that he wanted to have the opportunity to return to a “more normal” year of teaching. Although the school experience is not like before the pandemic, last year has made Krause more appreciative of his time teaching high school students.

“The experience made me realize that I really love learning, I really love coaching and I have thrived on interacting with young adults,” Krause said.

Addressing the needs of staff and students

According to Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the biggest problem teachers face is being able to teach both in person and virtually. MEA is a self-governing educational association, representing approximately 120,000 educators across the state. It represents approximately 1,100 teachers and support staff in the Bay Arenac, Midland, Bullock Creek, Meridian, Coleman and Beaverton school districts.

“Teaching a class online is very different from personal teaching. They are two completely different approaches,” Pratt said, adding that personal classes emphasize practical activities and student engagement. “It has also been inspiring to see educators overcome these challenges. “

Educators normally have a duty to take into account the different academic, social and emotional needs of students. The pandemic stressed the importance of meeting each of these needs making it a more difficult task, especially with virtual learning. Unfortunately, there is no single solution to these issues, Pratt said.

“Dealing with those needs is a very important thing that helps students recover and continue to learn,” he said. “Having everything that falls on the teacher is adding to that stress.”

Avoid burning and lack of staff

The pandemic has also highlighted the ongoing issues that were present prior to the presence of COVID-19, including the vicious burn cycle and the lack of educators. An increase in pensions has made it difficult to get dedicated teachers. According to Pratt, pensions have increased 40% in Michigan during the pandemic compared to previous years. In addition, a job opening in the field of education used to bring in 40-50 applicants; now employers are seeing about half a dozen applicants. As a result, classes are being covered by long-term substitutes.

“It’s not just the teachers. Counselors, pre-professionals, teachers, you mention it, “Pratt said.

MPS currently has openings for pre-professionals and substitute teachers. A document Sharrow shared with the Daily News says giving teachers breaks from student supervision as well as providing opportunities for group collaboration would alleviate some current challenges.

“We live in a wonderful generous community with many resources available,” the document reads. “We also hope that a teacher, or any employee, knows if they are struggling, to contact their principal, supervisor or a trusted colleague who can connect them with resources and support.”

Achieving mental health services

MPS also provides access to an Employee Assistance Program and is working with a group of Youth and School Services throughout the county to identify, create and disseminate positive mental health interventions. The document distributed by the Sharrow office says local teachers have benefited from mental health services and welfare workshops provided by local organizations including the Midland Wellbeing Coalition, The ROCK and Resilience in Student & Educators (RISE).

One state resource available is the MI Student Comprehensive Recovery Plan, published in May, which provides support for local education leaders through informed sources and recommendations. Under the Welfare section, a stated goal is to create policies throughout the area that “recognize and are responsive to staff stress, build knowledge and skills that promote resilience and well-being, and design in-school support systems that address the educator, staff and the mental health and well-being of administrators. ”

Help can also come from parents who take an active role in their children’s development – especially for young learners – by reading to them and engaging in educational activities that help build their learning skills. Communities can help by recognizing, respecting and thanking educators for their efforts.

“All this can not be done only within our classrooms. “Everyone has a role to play in helping our students,” Pratt said.