Sydney is a 24-year-old mother, co-raising her 6-month baby boy Jack with his father and her boyfriend, Jonathan. She is a High School Chemistry teacher and is a champion in my eyes to be raising a baby and teaching during this pandemic. I have known Sydney since we were about six years old. She has been a constant friend in my life and is such a huge supporter of my passions. She has the support of her family, Jonathan, and her friends to keep her going. I had always wanted to sit down and talk to Sydney about teaching during a pandemic, and now that she’s had Jack, I knew it was time to have a chat. So as we watch Encanto with Jack giggling and dancing on the blanket beside us, we decided to dive on into the interview.
What have been the biggest challenges in teaching during a pandemic?
Sydney stated that there is always the possibility of the student’s getting COVID or being exposed to COVID, so she has to make sure the work she provides is something that can easily be caught up. “When a student has to quarantine for two weeks, it causes a situation where they can’t or won’t want to make up the work they have missed. This quarantine period also causes a low number of students in class and I have to then decide whether to wait for full capacity to continue or move on with the students I have and risk the others becoming lost when they return.” She also stated that there is now a low number of substitutes, so other teachers have to step in or the students have to be sent to the gym, so you end up with about five classes in the gym, and nothing for them to do.
Have there been any lessons learned in teaching during a pandemic?
In reply, Sydney stated, “I have learned to give fellow teachers and the students a lot of grace.” She has also tried to be more lenient and not so strict about assignments.
What has been the biggest challenge in raising a baby during a pandemic?
She talked about the struggle of not being able to take him out to places. “The first time we took him out, we all got COVID and the flu.” She continued in discussing how no one could come to see him when he was born, and how she still can’t have a lot of people around. Being so secluded has caused Jack to become a tiny bit anti-social with those outside his regular babysitters and visitors.
What have been the positives in raising a baby during a pandemic?
Sydney spoke about the alone time she has been able to enjoy with Jack and Jonathan. She also spoke highly of the support she has received from friends and family, whether it be in supply runs, or babysitting while she cleans or runs errands.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to teach?
“Have a passion for it. There are bad days and good days, bad students and good students. Remember that every child deserves a champion and you have to be that champion every day,” she quoted while sitting Jack in her lap as he plays with a toy. She also heavily argued to not work when you are off the clock and to take time for yourself.
Any advice for new first-time mothers?
To this one, she juggled with what to stress since there is so much that can be said. She finally decided upon, “take your time and don’t let anyone come to your house that you’re not comfy with.” She also advised, “take a week or 2 to be with your baby, and remember it’s all a phase so the days feel long, but the months go by really fast. Once the first 3 months pass, you have your feet under you.”
What made you want to be a teacher?
Sydney reflected on a past memory here with her now supervisor, Principal Weaver. “When we had to do ACT prep, I couldn’t increase my math score how I wanted so I got tutoring. I remember crying because I was so stressed, and then Weaver walked in and said, “Why are you crying? You’re going to get it.” I remember actually feeling relieved after that. It made a mark, and it was crazy to me how one educator can spark a student off like that.”
What is your best teaching hack?
“Borrow and reuse materials, don’t make everything.” She also advises using the website, TeachersPayTeachers.com, where you can buy used materials and classroom decor.
What is your best parenting hack?
Disney+ has been her major support, as Jack is glued to the scene from Encanto playing out in front of us. His favorite has been The Little Mermaid due to the bright colors. She also swears by Disney lullabies. “I See The Light” from Tangled is the lullaby she uses to put Jack to sleep. She also recommends Hey Bear Sensory on youTube which she can also use to put him to sleep or just to calm him down.
I give so much credit to Sydney during this time. She isn’t doing it alone, but I am sure it can still be a challenge to co-raise a baby and teach high school during this crazy time. I have loved having Sydney in my life. Her never-ending support and shoulder to lean on are irreplaceable. I couldn’t imagine her not being my friend. I have watched her raise Jack for the past six months, and she is an amazing mother. I can’t wait to see the man he grows into. I have also seen the care she puts into teaching and the passion she has for her subject, and I can easily say that teachers like her are rare. I would have loved to have her as a teacher when we attended that very high school.
Motherhood is messy. And Challenging. And crazy. And sleepless. And giving. And still unbelievably beautiful.Rachel Martin
The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.Alexandra K. Trenfor