No one needs a reminder of how COVID-19 disrupted nearly every facet of life, especially our educational infrastructure. Teachers and educators had some of the hardest jobs, charged with delivering a full education via virtual learning and pivoting completely almost overnight.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we spoke with two Baltimore-area educators who are mothers about their experience leading their students—and family—through the pandemic.
Click here for Part 1 of our feature, which offers perspective from Emma Auffarth, assistant director of Towson University Child Care Center. Below we will hear from Teresa Pearl, of the Baltimore Infants and Toddlers Program at Baltimore City Schools.
Teresa Pearl, Baltimore City Schools, Baltimore Infants and Toddlers Program
In a typical year, Teresa Pearl holds “Mommy & Me” classes and conducts home visits, working with Baltimore families to support their infants and toddlers. During the initial phases of the pandemic, she switched to virtual parent coaching sessions.
“It was very, very challenging, especially when my kids (she is a mother of three) were doing virtual learning at home …. I was feeling really challenged and overwhelmed … it was really hard to call other moms and suggest things to them.”
She crammed in sessions back to back during her youngest child’s naptime. The revolving door of new restrictions and information was, Pearl reports, “unsettling.”
“I think that might have been the worst part because I feel like … most teachers really thrive on routines.” She reports feeling mentally and physically exhausted at the end of her workdays.
Similar to Auffarth, she found solace in the outdoors. “I would take a lot of walks … go for runs around the neighborhood just to kind of tune out and be away from the screens briefly.” Her family also began setting up things to look forward to—like making a big deal about picking out carryout food once a week.
The virtual sessions she held with families provided a unique view for her. “Because it was virtual, it was different. It was more relaxed … I really feel like I got to see a true, clear picture of the homes and the families and … what they were going though. I feel like that definitely is something I held onto as a really unique perspective that I’ll (hopefully) never get again.”
Pearl was able to see what supports were beneficial for different families, providing her a new lens with which to judge the merits of different resources.
When asked about her work, Pearl remarks, “I can honestly say that I love my job. The best part of my job is that I get to work with the entire family, not just the child. I am able to provide resources and support to the entire family.” She also loves working with a multitude of agencies around the Baltimore area.
For Pearl, the best part of being a mom is “everything. It just really gives you perspective.”
Her advice to other working moms centers on finding support. “As someone who’s been doing this for many, many years, if you have someone that you can share your home workload with, or supports that you can bring in, someone to help you, do it. You shouldn’t try to do everything on your own. You should get good at delegating things and empowering others to do things that really support you ….” She offers an example in her life. “My husband manages everything with my children’s dental care … it’s just so amazing to completely hand that responsibility over to someone else!” she adds.
“Teachers are amazing,” Pearl says. “They’re in a position where their job is nearly impossible. The expectations are nearly impossible. The amount of data they’re supposed to take—nearly impossible … just give them grace.”