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What Is It Like To Be A First Year Teacher During A Pandemic?

Photo Credit: Stephen Depolo via Flickr
Steven Depolo
Photo Credit: Stephen Depolo via Flickr

School restarts this month across Florida, but most counties still don’t have a solid reopening plan. Sean Griffin is an elementary school teacher with Orange County Public Schools, and this past year was his first year teaching.

90.7’s Talia Blake caught up with Griffin ahead of the upcoming school year. He says the pandemic has forced him to make big changes to how, and where, he’ll teach. 

Read a full transcript of the conversation below:

WMFE: Can you tell us what you thought your first year of teaching was going to be like compared to what this year actually was?

SEAN GRIFFIN: I'm new to the profession. I've been in school districts before, but last year was my first year as a full time classroom teacher. I thought it would be business as usual, and it wasn't like that. When COVID came around, it kind of disrupted pretty much everything and, threw everything into a whirlwind where all the schools (and) teachers had to adapt very quickly to provide the level of education that  everyone was expecting and do it from a distance learning standpoint.

WMFE: With all the uncertainty surrounding this upcoming school year, how are you adapting?

GRIFFIN: I'm actually in a unique position. I am living in New York at the moment. I have a home up here. I teach down in Florida. I'll go down there during this school year and rent an apartment. Then, come back up here for the for the summers. I have three children of my own. I have a high schooler, college student, and a middle schooler. My high schooler actually goes to school down in Florida with me when I go down there. So, what I plan on doing this year, I'm actually taking the year off from the classroom and staying up here because I feel it would be safer for myself (and) safer for my son. He has some medical issues such as asthma and stuff. I'm going to take the year and stay up here, and what I'm doing up here  is in my large finished basement, I'm developing a learning pod for the school district that I live in up here. I'm going to take on probably six students at most and have a small home-school setting down here for students that are going to work virtually. So that's that's my plan for the upcoming year.

WMFE: Do you plan to return to Florida next summer or before the 2021 school year?

GRIFFIN: Yes, I will be returning down there for the following year. There's a lot of unknowns right now. I'm just trying to do what's probably best for the safety and health of myself and my family at the moment.

WMFE: Lastly, what hopes do you have for the next year or for just schooling going forward? What what hopes do you have?

GRIFFIN: I hope things go well. I'm trying to be optimistic about about the whole thing. It's difficult. Teaching is difficult in itself. During a pandemic, it was a little added stress there. Going into it, I didn't realize how difficult teaching was going to be, (like) keeping up with everything. You're way more than an educator to these students. A lot of people realized how important teachers were to kids during this time. I just hope everyone stays safe and healthy and, gets through this.

WMFE: Sean Griffin is a teacher with Orange County Public Schools. This upcoming school year will be his second as a teacher. Sean, thank you for your time and good luck this school year.

GRIFFIN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to WMFE, the station that grew her love for public radio. She graduated with a double-major in Broadcast Journalism and Psychology from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). While at UCF, she was an intern for WMFE’s public affairs show, Intersection. In her spare time, Talia is an avid foodie and enjoys working out.