How a local mother & teacher is searching for the “new normal”

Eric Durfee celebrating his 15th birthday; photo courtesy of Maddison Morris

It’s hard to describe what the new normal will be. Amanda Durfee, educator and mother, believes it is but anything but from now on.

“Conversations that deal with how they are coping are important, but so are the conversations that take them away from the “virus” and back to a sense of normalcy,” Durfee said.

Durfee has been trying her best over the past weeks to make the at-home and online transitions smooth. This includes her kids and her students at Fordson High School.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers are now developing resources for teachers to offer online learning.

“My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer stated in a release. “For the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state, I have made the difficult decision to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year.”

The governor believes it is unsafe for K-12 students to return to their classrooms with Coronavirus cases on the continuous rise. As of Monday, there are 37,203 confirmed cases and 3,274 deaths in Michigan.

“Given (the) virus’s aggressively persistent spread and potentially fatal consequences, in-person instruction in our schools is too dangerous to resume in the near future, and very likely for the remainder of the 2019- 2020 school year,” Whitmer’s order stated.

These orders have had a significant impact on parents and teachers alike.

“As an educator, the most important element of my job is contact. In all I have experienced, it is the face-to-face contact that students yearn for the most,” Durfee explained. “Even the more reluctant learners at school are messaging for meeting times and dates. Emails, Remind messages, and an occasional phone call also tend to help students who are coping with a huge shift in their daily routine.”

Durfee expressed that online learning can be difficult, but she is trying her best to take all feedback into consideration moving forward.

“The feedback I receive from students detailing their enjoyment from the reading of the poem or the writing project assigned is my best form of evidence,” Durfee said. “Again, face to face time could help me determine engagement, but we have yet to find a platform that allows us enough attempts to be certain. “

Mother of three, Durfee’s children, Maddison Morris and Eric and Sophia Durfee, are all proud of their mother.

Morris, 22, admires the strength she has shown throughout the pandemic.

“Amanda is an authentically caring person,” Morris explained. “She is very genuine when it comes to her inherent nature to make other people happy and go above and beyond to ensure that they feel cared for.”

Amanda Durfee finding creative ways to visit family while in quarantine

Durfee has maintained engagement in her own house, and in her community.

She continues to celebrate birthdays and give back to her community. Her and her family created a free little library on their porch. They provided free, gently used, books and board games for families in their community.

“She posted a sign out on the front yard with board games, kid’s toys, mostly books and said, Take as much as you want. We know this is a troubling time, we want to make sure everyone is still being creative as a family!” Morris said.

Coronavirus did not stop her for throwing an exciting birthday party for her son.

Family and friends drove past the Durfee’s home to help Eric celebrate his 15th birthday, all while staying quarantined.

“Right now, I feel like a lot of people are missing out on big life celebrations like birthdays or weddings or – even funerals in some cases. They don’t get the closure, they don’t get the family time that they would originally, and all the things we took for granted, she is trying to make that up in ways that still show affection but in a safe way,” Morris explained regarding her step-mothers actions during the uncertain time.

Despite isolation, Durfee continues to keep her family and students connected. It is important to her to keep balance in both her work and home life.

Eric Durfee & his Grandmother celebrating his 15th birthday; photo courtesy of Maddison Morris

She is setting the exact example officials are recommending.

Unicef.org has released their tips for parenting during the COVID-19 outbreak. They recommend setting aside time to spend with each of your children. “It can be for just 20 minutes, or longer – it’s up to us. It can be at the same time each day so children or teenagers can look forward to it.”

They have also recommended to continue to keep children’s environments positive. “It’s hard to feel positive when our kids or teenagers are driving us crazy. We often end up saying ‘Stop doing that!’. But children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right,” their website states.

COVID-19-Parenting-Tips

UNICEF also states for parents to take a “one- minute relaxation” when one is feeling stressed or worried about the current state of the world. They suggest finding a comfortable sitting position, focused on your breathing and reflect.

“Taking a pause can also be helpful when you find your child is irritating you or has done something wrong. It gives you a chance to be calmer. Even a few deep breaths or connecting with the feeling of the floor beneath can make a difference. You can also take a pause with your children!” their website states.

Despite the current state of the world, Durfee continues to be the best mother and educator she can be.

“As educators, we are always learning, but learning in the digital age is a fear for some of the more established educators,” she said. “Trying new technology can be scary, too. So, just gearing up to do whatever is best for kids is what we need to be doing right now.”