Susan S. Oswalt

Springwood School
Lanett, Alabama
Susan S. Oswalt, Honors and A.P. English Teacher, A.P. Psychology Teacher

We Are ‘Called’ for This

Has your heart ever leapt in your chest when your students successfully responded to a challenging feat? The moment I learned of the passing exam grades for my AP English Literature and Composition students, I knew that months of work had paid off.  I knew the students didn’t just ‘get it,’ but they knew how to ‘apply it’ … and I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear knowing they could successfully create a sound, literary critical analysis.

As a teacher, it is in the defining moments of student success and advancement that makes it all worth it.   Whether it be critical thinking skills or enhanced motor skills, when there is success with the lesson taught, there is celebration.

Those moments of celebration build your teaching confidence because you know you did what you were ‘called’ to do.  It inspires you to work more diligently to ensure further success.  You know that all the hours spent researching the topic, encompassing different teaching strategies, gathering updated information, prepping materials for the lesson, dissecting the lesson for differentiation, collaborating with other teachers, determining the best procedures to apply the lesson, and creating successful ways to assess the lesson has been worth all the hours, days, and weeks of effort put forth.  And, as soon as you start on that lesson, you find yourself simultaneously planning the next one.

Now, we live in a COVID-19 world, where our workload has at least tripled.  In a matter of days, we learned how to depend on learning management systems, web conferencing, video conferencing, webinars, and more.  There was no option for failure: the students depended on us.  For most educators, this time has best been described as the most ‘overwhelming’ season of their career.  For those of us who have continued to teach, we have joined the forces of the ‘front line.’ We are fighters for our students’ health, minds, and futures.

Where we fail, which will happen, we pick ourselves up and find new ways to be successful.  For those still teaching virtually, the celebrations of success still occur but seem further apart because the task of teaching is skewed with distractions and bombarded with inconsistencies beyond our control.  We are constantly researching and creating new ways to communicate lessons and intellectually reach the students through cyberspace.  For those teaching face to face, we revel in every moment spent with our students even though communication and time together is hampered through managing both in person and virtual students, masked faces, open doors, proctored classrooms, and timely cleaning rituals.   The world we teach in will never be the same… and as odd as it may sound, it shouldn’t.

As we continue to learn how to conform to this new world of teaching, we must remain encouraged and know that we were ‘called’ to do this.  We must not get distracted and discouraged by the world around us.  We must remember our purpose.  We must extend grace to ourselves when things don’t turn out quite as expected.  We must take advantage of technology that has been presented to us and incorporate it into curriculum where possible.  Most importantly, we must choose to prevail through this perpetual transition.

The good news is…there is a brighter side to all of this: we can all become more influential teachers than we were before.  We have advanced our knowledge in teaching techniques that parallel to our continually-evolving, technological world. This experience is preparing us for a higher level of teaching that we never imagined. And through this, no matter the time-consuming, challenging, and detailed tasks at hand, we will continue to achieve those moments of celebration whether it be face to face or through a screen.  If we look at this ‘COVID-19 time’ as a stoke to our teaching fire, we could possibly see this as the most defining moment in our careers.  We will prevail because we are teachers and we are ‘called’ for this.