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Shaun Smith: “Every moment you have with your family, with your colleagues, you know, being an educator with students and parents is precious.”

Becca Newton

Shaun Smith is a Columbia area educator, and he spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the CoMo 200 celebration on the Fourth of July.

Sean has a decade of teaching under his belt, and often imparts knowledge of Missouri history onto the future generations that walk through his classroom. He spoke about some the challenges he faced as a teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic – as classes moved online.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Shaun Smith: I'm a teacher and an administrator, so we got sent home pretty quick. So, just navigating that and, of course, with children in elementary school – that was hard.

We were in a school district that kind of – we were online and went back in person and went back home and then back in person – we flipped flopped many times.

And then being a teacher having to zoom and then, of course, take care of your own children because they are Zooming, as well, and they're very young, so they couldn't do it on their own. It was extremely challenging.

My wife, my boys’ mother, she's also an education. So, she… when we were allowed back in school, she actually had to go to school every day, and I went to school every day and my boys just Zoomed from school. But often, if they were struggling on screen, I would have to stop my entire class to help them.

Becca Newton

So, you could imagine seeing two monitors, an iPad, a cell phone, and another iPad all set up on a desk. To get text messages, emails, lesson plans – it was almost as if I had to learn, you know, how to multitask with seven different devices with no training, training yourself.

So, just doing all that stuff on the weekend, and of course, I'm going to making sure my five-year-old son is learning as well. So, it, it was quite challenging.

Even during our normal regular year – we work nights and weekends because you have the kids for your 7 ½ hour day, and you know, you're paid for 8 hours.

So, your planning and your grading assignments and your parent communication – that all comes out of contract time during a normal year. Then you put the pandemic on top of that…

So, you are still doing all those, you know, four or five hours, possibly a day, plus another hour to learn how to teach this way.

A lot of, I think, misconceptions was that teachers were getting paid, and they weren't doing a lot of work, when we were actually doing about, you know, two or three times more work than we would in a normal year. Just with learning how to teach in a different way, plus our regular job duties.

Every moment you have with your family, with your colleagues, you know, being an educator with students and parents is precious. You may not have those moments again. So, treat every interaction as a new one.

I will say that with me in particular, I feel as if the positive side of this pandemic – if there is one – is my relationships with my students and their families was better than I've ever had in over, you know, a decade and a half of being an educator.

Just because I was in their home every day. So, their grandma, their aunt or uncle, the neighbor –whoever was doing school with them – I got to know them on a personal level, which during a normal year, you would not because they'd come to school, and you wouldn’t talk to them but maybe twice a year at conferences.

Becca Newton is a student reporter and producer at KBIA. They will graduate from the University of Missouri in spring 2022 with a degree in Multimedia Convergence Journalism and minors in Peace Studies and History.