Carolyn Cook, Bloomfield, NY

First-time teacher feels at home as community responds to COVID-19

July 3, 2020 |

We are asking rural communities to share how COVID-19 is impacting. Read below for a perspective from Carolyn Cook of Bloomfield, NY. You can share yours here: http://bit.ly/iaartcovid

I am standing in my first ever classroom March 16th, 2020 at 11:30 am watching my students hug each other, share smiles, give each other high fives, share toys, snuggle in the pile of blankets in the reading corner, and I am thinking to myself this is what teaching is all about. Little did I know that this was the last time of the 2019-2020 school year that I would get to see those ear-to-ear smiles, hear their contagious laughter and receive those warm hugs.

My community of teachers had supported me throughout the year as a first-year teacher with advice, guidance, and listening ears. What no one could have predicted or prepared me for was teaching during a pandemic. The truth is, I had never felt more at home in the community than during this pandemic. I was amazed at how quickly our community came together to support one another. Within hours of finding out that we would be teaching from home, Bloomfield was putting together packets of school supplies for students, teachers were thinking of ways to support each other, and a meal distribution plan commenced for families in the district. Childcare and health care information, family learning resources, distance learning tools, and the many other resources that Bloomfield had were offered to the community during this time. We all came together to create a distance learning environment that we believed supported and challenged students to be successful both socially-emotionally and academically. We not only provided students with Chromebooks and Internet access, but also mailed home project-based science experiments among numerous paper packets. Social distanced school parades, graduations, happy mail, letters, emails, phone calls, and many Zoom video chats were had to ensure the students and parents felt supported, encouraged, heard and loved. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the first Zoom video chat I had with my students. It wasn’t because I had to tell one of my students to please stop putting their live chickens on their Chromebook; it was because of their elated smiles and their excited jitters to simply just see each other! The Bloomfield district went above and beyond to ensure that their students, parents, teachers and staff were healthy, safe, learning, and most importantly happy.

As I close, I must say that while we grieve what we didn’t have, I celebrate what we did have. When I reflect upon my first year of teaching, I won’t look back at the hardships of COVID-19, but the way in which the Bloomfield community supported me and my students. This time hasn’t been easy. Lives have been disrupted, but when it mattered most Bloomfield stepped up to the challenge and together made this year unforgettable. This is my rural advantage. #BCSstrong

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