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A day in the life of a pandemic principal

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Teachers give a lesson to their masked students in a classroom.

Schools are beginning to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds on programs to mitigate learning loss caused by the pandemic. Michael Loccisano via Getty Images

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During this pandemic, students, parents and school staff have had to adjust to many changes, from remote learning to remote work — on top of dealing with the spread of COVID-19. Educators are also dealing with a teacher shortage. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that “employment in local government education rose by 29,000 in January but is down by 359,000, or 4.4%, since February 2020.” 

Greg Moffitt is the principal at Fairmont Charter Elementary School in Vacaville, California. Moffitt recently published a Twitter thread detailing what “a day in the life of a school principal” looks like and the struggles that come with teaching during a pandemic. 

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Moffitt to learn more about the challenges of supporting educators and students. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. 

Kai Ryssdal: So I talked about your, your Twitter thread up there in the introduction. So the first question obviously has to be what was it like when you woke up this morning? What are you facing?

Greg Moffitt: Today, I got to be in the crosswalk. And I’ve been out at recess supporting kids there. I don’t have to cover any classrooms today. We managed to get subs for all of our teachers, and, and in between that I’m checking in on kids, talking with parents, just doing the job.

Ryssdal: Let’s talk about some of the environmentals for you and for all school administrators across this country. First of all, at the district level, you’re getting the support you need, are there finances available for you, those kinds of educational infrastructure things?

Moffitt: I work in an incredible school district, and our district office staff, when we don’t have a sub, when we don’t have a staff member here, they come on out. They are here on our campus, being paraeducators and student monitors and crossing guards and classroom teachers. So we do have a lot of money from the state and federal government. Our district alone has about $32 million to spend over the next few years. And we’ve spent about two-thirds of it, we still have another third left to go. But all of that money requires a plan. So I feel incredibly lucky by the district that I work in and the resources that we have.

Ryssdal: What about the teachers at Fairmont Elementary? What, what really happens in the teachers’ lounge, Mr. Moffitt?

Moffitt: You know, they laugh, they cry, they get frustrated. And I think we spend a lot of time thinking about how our kids are reacting and responding to this pandemic. But our staff are also living in the pandemic too. Right? They’re, they’re going through it, they have families, they have concerns. My job as a principal is to validate that and to see it and to help folks process, and, and I’m not sure I really sort of understood all that when this began two years ago, we were so focused on our kids, right? We were so focused on making sure they were OK. I have to spend as much time focusing on the staff to make sure that they are OK so that we can be there for the kids.

Ryssdal: What’s the community environment like? I mean, it can be fraught, right, with masks and absences and all of those things? What’s it like for you?

Moffitt: You know, there’s this quote by Dr. Michele Borba, and she wrote this book “UnSelfie.” And she says that as anxiety goes up, empathy goes down. And so I think we are all facing lots of really anxious and worried people. We don’t know what’s gonna come next. We don’t know what new policy or new rule is gonna come our way. And so everyone’s emotions are at a heightened state right now. And so sometimes parents, sometimes teachers, sometimes kids, they unleash those emotions. I’ve been really, really lucky that folks are pretty understanding in our community. They want to keep everyone safe. They want to do the right thing. But definitely, people don’t all agree with what that is. You hope that people are respectful and civil. But that’s really hard right now.

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