My name is Erika Lofton, and I am a kindergarten teacher at Hollis Innovation Academy in Atlanta, GA. I have been teaching there since its inception in 2016, and we have been using the EL Education K-5 Reading & Writing Curriculum ever since we opened the school doors.
One of the many things teaching gives me is an adrenaline rush. When I’m in school, teaching my students, every minute of instruction matters. When a strategy does not work in the classroom, I grab something on the fly to help my students understand. The “aha” moments, when I see in their eyes that they understand, and the smiles they give, when they are proud of themselves, fuel me. We go from moment to moment together, always moving in sync with each other.
Now, it’s a dead halt. I am at a standstill. I feel incomplete. There is still so much teaching and learning to do. To put this in context, our students were part of a failing school identified as a turnaround school prior to closing—a designation our school inherited. The school opened with approximately 500 students, 96% African American and 100% receive free breakfast and lunch.
As a kindergarten teacher, I teach approximately 20 students. More than half of them did not attend PreK. As a result, my students began the year unable to identify letters, letter sounds, or numbers which put them at a disadvantage as they began their school career. As their teacher, it is my duty to give them the foundation they need to succeed —for their future. With our school shut down, I fear that I will not be able to get them where they need to be. I wonder if they are getting enough food, if they have access to the internet, or if they are ok in their living situations.
I had to let a couple of days pass before I could write this, because my mind could not process all going on. I know a lot of us are doing the best that we can in the unprecedented time we are in, and I want you to know you are not alone. The same worries you have, I have too. We’re all thinking of our students, with whom we spend so much time—and who make us strive to do and be our best. I encourage all my fellow educators to do two things:
- Take care of our mental health.
- Communicate with each other.
I plan to open a Twitter chat for educators to come together and support each other the best way we can. We support our students every day. Now, it’s time for self-love and community. Physical distancing can still mean virtual connection. OUR has put together resources and we’re having a lot of conversation on Twitter and in the OUR Facebook groups. I invite you to join us on whatever channels you frequent.
Soon enough, we’ll get our adrenaline rushes again, and the teaching and learning will be back where they need to be. How are you feeling? How are you dealing? Tweet me your thoughts.
About Open Up Resources:
Open Up Resources is a 501c3 that exists to increase equity in education by making the highest quality curriculum freely accessible to educators and providing implementation supports to the broadest number of teachers, empowering them to effectively and sustainably improve student outcomes in pre-K-12 English Language Arts and Mathematics. To learn more about Open Up Resources' mission and work, click here.