Taking up a new job is always nerve-racking, but much more so for the two new Eighth Grade chairs, who have started their new jobs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, taking on roles drastically different than in years past. Before the school year, Mr. Egan and Mrs. Zidow had different expectations of what their jobs would look like. “I thought the job was going to look a little different than what it has,” said Mr. Egan’s eighth-grade boy’s chair. Right after the 2019-2020 school year ended, the grade chairs had to do a lot of preparation for the upcoming school year. “Over the summer, I think we met one to three times every week for hours to plan the schedule,” said Mrs. Zidow, eighth-grade girls chair. “Through the summer, we continued our work. We were working on different things. Multiple times we were on zoom throughout the summer,” added Egan.
One of Mr. Egan’s and Mrs. Zidow’s biggest frustrations has been not having a presence in the locker commons. “It is a little bit of a struggle at times when the PE classes come in, and it is not really my locker commons. It’s the PE teachers’ locker commons, so really that frustrates me that the only time I get to interact in the locker commons is when boys are closer than six feet or kind of roughhousing in the locker commons,” said Egan. Zidow adds, “My office is in a corner of the building that no one comes to see. So I have had to walk to homeroom’s to be a part of the conversation.” Their jobs have changed a lot from what they would have been in past years. This year the grade chair has way more administrative responsibilities. “I have a lot of management behind the scenes every day. I am checking to see if anyone is on the COVID list, and if that’s the case, then there is a lot more work to be done . . . that really has replaced the responsibilities of the locker commons,” commented Egan.
Mrs. Zidow and Mr. Egan have had conferences with students and parents this year. “The meet and greet one on one check-ins have been critical for me to get to know students who I did not teach or advise last year,” said Zidow. Formerly Mrs. Zidow was a full-time English teacher and advisor in the Middle School before taking up the grade chair role along with still teaching two English classes. “I do have an advantage over some grade chairs because I taught about a third of the eighth-grade girls as an English teacher or advisor.”
Given the fact that students’ locker commons time has been revoked, students have been spending tons of time in their homerooms with their advisors. “It has really been exhausting with the homeroom study hall for older kids who come with their younger kids; every homeroom teacher has to be there the whole time,” says eighth-grade advisor and math teacher Bill Caldwell. “The administration is doing their best, and we completely understand why this is necessary due to the covid protocols.” Students are in homeroom for big chunks at the beginning and end of each day, way more time than they have in past years.
While this semester is coming to a close, it seems like it has been a challenging but exciting year for the two new eighth grade chairs. “The thing that I have loved most is the opportunity to check in one on one with students . . . [and] the funny banter that goes on between the child and the parent.” Some of the most significant changes that have been new this year have been losing the locker commons time and all of the time spent in homeroom. Both of the grade chairs have done their best to get into homerooms on a regular basis and interact with their students. It will be hard to be able to gather as a grade with the protocols still in place next semester. “Even if I have an idea in my head, it is really hard to communicate that with all of you [eighth-grade boys],” says Egan. One of the biggest challenges for the future will be planning and executing grade-wide activities.