Saffire Corcoran has always enjoyed working with kids and helping people learn new things. She did a lot of coaching in her youth, and becoming a teacher just seemed like a natural transition.
The Alberton Elementary School teacher is in her second year teaching Grade 6, and third year in a permanent position at the school. She said she loves seeing the excitement on her students faces when they come in, and helping make their day to day schooling as positive an experience as she can.
“I enjoy working with my students,” she said. “Every day is always different, and seeing them learn a concept that you helped guide them to learn is always the best part of your day.”
Like many teachers across the province, Ms Corcoran from March to the end of June last year had to start teaching her students online as in-person learning was temporarily halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year we had talked about in Humanities different situations within history that were significant to people at the time,” she said. “We never thought in a million years that in a month’s time we would be living through a pandemic. It was very, very interesting. When we began online learning, we discussed how we would remember each other forever because we lived through a pandemic together, and we went through this experience together.”
Ms Corcoran said home learning had been a bit stressful for a few reasons. The biggest was teachers didn’t know how their students were truly doing, particularly in terms of their mental health. Reaching all her students was a challenge as well, because not every student learns the same way.
Coming back to school in September was also stressful because of the unknown, but things have overall been running fairly smoothly since then. Ms Corcoran said kids are very resilient.
“The students are so happy to be here, they really missed their friends, they really missed that social interaction,” she said. “I think they’re just so happy to be able to be in school, to be here with their peers, with their teachers, that they’re grateful. I’m not noticing huge gaps in their learning, they bounce back pretty well. That was a big fear, them missing a lot of time and what that was going to look like. I think the board did a really good job of adapting our curriculum to meet those gaps, and I think it’s working well.”
Ms Corcoran said she knows staff and students are lucky to be where they are, in a province where cases of COVID-19 have remained relatively low, and that the experience has taught her resilience, how to adapt on the fly, and what’s really important for students in their learning.
“Really, at the end of the day, that their mental health is of the utmost importance,” she said. “Caring for them as people is very important in order to teach them anything else.”
Sometimes, teaching the curriculum is the easy part. Ms Corcoran said there are always outside issues that come in, and teachers occasionally have to deal with things students go through beyond their time in the classroom, including helping students who are struggling, making sure there are enough resources, or dealing with issues like trying to get a learning disability diagnosed.
Being a teacher is more than just an 8-4 job, and a lot is done behind the scenes people might not necessarily be aware of, including helping to tutor, coach, and help students beyond the hours spent in school.
“As teachers, we have a huge roll in how our students view their education, and whether or not they want to come to school and to learn,” Ms Corcoran concluded. “We all care about our students, and we care about how well they do. We kind of become like a family, and it’s important to recognize those extra things that make them, them.”