How to handle fear in the classroom during a pandemic

Tim Whiting is an educator for a large North Texas school district. He also has served as a school administrator. In this article, Tim processes how fear of the coronavirus shapes him as an educator and a parent and works through how to live through that fear.

Fear. That is the four-letter word on our minds. That is nothing new. Fear has exhibited itself for all of us every day of our lives. Now, it has a name; it has a place; it has a consequence.  

So when I was asked to identify and express my fears during the pandemic as both a parent and an educator, it was hard to pinpoint. As with many others, I fear the unknown, but hasn’t that always been there? For me to process this, I have to narrow it down to who I am.

As a human, I fear what I do not know. I do not know what effect this virus can have on me and my family. I do not know how to identify it – whether within myself or with others. I do not know how I would react if I knew someone with the virus.

As a parent, I fear for the safety of my family. How would it affect my boys if either parent has the virus? How will we educate my boys on the virus and how will we educate them on how to adjust to a “new normal?” How do we provide for our boys academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually during this shift in our culture and our society?  

I fear whether or not I will uphold my duty as an educator.  For 22 years, I have served others as a teacher and a school administrator. I have a responsibility to the students, parents, administrators and district I serve. I have a duty to ensure I provide educational opportunities and opportunities for my students to find success … but how can I meet those expectations and still address my fears?

And this is just the beginning. Add to that all the social and political unrest. And a dash of uncertainty. And a scoop of change. With a side of all the troubles of life in general.

How can I, a teacher, a spouse, a father and a child of God conquer all this fear at once? The answer? "I do not know." And I am OK with that. I have to accept and know “this too shall pass.” And although I would love to offer some deep words of encouragement, I can’t, other than what gives me peace:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

Written by Tim Whiting, an educator for a large North Texas school district. He also has served as a school administrator. He and his wife, Betsy, are the parents of two school-aged boys.

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