Amy Scott, who had one more year left of teaching before she would end a 45-year run in the Miami-Dade school system, wasn’t really prepared to retire this year.
But according to the teaching veteran, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that, forcing her into an unceremonious early retirement. With no promise of a vaccine by fall, the challenge of trying to engage students virtually every day was simply not enticing, she explained to Yahoo Finance last week.
“The prospect of distance learning does not excite me. I’ve done it pretty proficiently for the last several months. But proficient is not enough,” the critical thinking and philosophy teacher at Coral Reef Senior High told “On The Move.”
Scott added that she’s hardly a luddite, and has learned to appreciate some aspects of distant engagement. For example, one-on-one conversations — where you can see a student rather than simply talk by phone — was a helpful feature that allows for greater engagement than just posting on social media.
However, Scott fears that the eventual return to school is going to be in an “isolated” and restrictive environment, one without gatherings and social activities.
Even as cities and states gradually reopen, current public health guidelines actively discourage large gatherings, and recommend sharp capacity limits in closed-door environments.
“I think a lot of teachers don’t feel safe, but they don’t have the privilege I do to retire,” Scott told Yahoo Finance.
How she did it
Scott has maintained a broad network of current and former students on Facebook, and engages in discussion through the platform.
It’s how she was able to whip up a lesson plan for the virtual remainder of the year. Former students were interviewed about their lives and careers, sharing useful life experiences with the current class.
“The kids are telling me the Zoom interviews with former students form all walks of life were tremendously helpful,” she said. “They learned so much of the world. What they learned was (the former students) always ended up in a different spot than they thought they were going to be— thats how it should be.”
But a full year’s lesson plan requires more creativity for better engagement, she said. And the same vast network of former students informed her decision to retire, Scott said.
“All of these students, the journalists, I’ve got doctors in the COVID wings— they’re giving me the real story,” she said. I think I have a little bit of insight (from) the student who is teaching the teacher.”
Scott believes that now more than ever, the critical thinking skills she teaches are important to the current moment.
“In an age of conspiracy theories... teaching is all the more Important,” she said. “If we don’t teach them everything they need to know in their disciplines, and don’t teach empathy and critical thinking, we’ve failed. Thats the only reason I feel sad about leaving teaching.”
After accepting her fate, Scott decided she is going to refocus her life and shift her hobbies into full-time focus— converting an exercise room in her Miami home into a reading, writing, art and wellness room.
“I’m going to make a schedule for myself and take myself seriously, as if I’m a professional artist,” she said.
Her days will now include reading novels for pleasure and writing short stories and poetry, as well as painting.