Tiara Watson ’15 had a childhood dream of becoming a teacher. But she never imagined teaching could look like this.
Watson, a third-grade homeroom teacher at a public charter school in Bushwick, a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, has a full plate. She teaches English and math to 29 third-graders, mentors student teachers and trains fellow math teachers.
Then came the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. On March 16, 2020, New York City closed all schools to prevent further spread of the virus. Within days, teachers like Watson transitioned to remote learning platforms. Like so many other teachers, she scrambled to adapt and provide support to every student’s family set up a learning platform at home including fielding calls as late as 10:00 p.m. from parents who were essential workers.
Watson also had to learn to conduct video chat lessons with small groups of students with special needs, mentor her student teachers and reassure parents struggling to get the hang of online communication with their child’s teacher. “Bushwick has a large Spanish-speaking population. If I didn’t speak Spanish, every communication would have to go through a translator. A certain amount of protocol is necessary, but sometimes it adds to the burden.”
Daily, she works to create community and a sense of normalcy for her students, most of whom are eight or nine years old. “I love my kids,” she said. “They miss their classroom and their friends. School is an anchor for them, so I’m doing what I can to make it feel normal.” She added, “I don’t think I’ve ever smiled as much as when I first saw all their faces on Zoom.”
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