“It was really difficult to teach kids when they were at home”


Richard Flores

“Long day at work”

Interview audio

You might know her: Ms. Ortiz teaches ethnic studies and only been teaching for four years. Two of those years were in France and two years in the U.S. during the pandemic. She has had her own personal troubles but still pushes on for her students.

Richard Flores: Okay so what’s your full name?
Red Ortiz: Red Ortiz.
RF:And how long have you been teaching?
RO: I’ve been teaching two years in the U.S. and I also taught two years in France.
RF: How’d it go in France?
RO: It was really great. I got to met lots of different people and practice something that was really difficult for me, which was like learning a whole new different language and trying to survive on my own, yea in a country where I don’t really speak the language all that well.
RF: You had no family members?
RO: No I decided to go there myself.
RF: So before you became a teacher, what was your dream job or has teaching always been your dream job?
RO: I’ve wanted to be a teacher when I was a little kid, like I would play teacher with my little cousins um but I went to college to become a diplomat which is like a representative for the United States um around the world.
 RF: Any colleges?
RO: Yea yea, I went to Soka University, which is this really small 400 student school in Orange County which is based on Buddhist principles of just like, global citizenship, and the school’s name is actually a word in Japanese to “create value” and then for my masters I went to Older Graduate School of Education. Its super small as well.
RF: So for your class, how long have you been teaching in the U.S.?
RO: Two years in the U.S..
RF: Have any kids had any impact on you ?
RO: Yea, so many a lot of kids have had an impact on me. Like even this year I’ve been really lucky to get to know a lot of the students, like your personal stories and, um yea, to be trusted with a lot of stories, and a lot of the students’ emotions and yes it’s been a great experience.
RF: For your first teaching year, was it nervous or did you come prepared?
RO: Well, it was my first year teaching after a long break and I actually did my student teaching during Covid and it was all on Zoom so this was my first time actually being in a classroom with students again after doing it on Zoom, so yea. it was nervous. The kids were too. The kids haven’t gone to school for 2-3 years at that point and they were, yea they basically went to fourth grade and then one day school just stopped and turned online and suddenly it was back on. So it was a big change for everybody. I think, um yea, and I was definitely nervous being in the classroom for the first time after such a long time but I think we all just kinda learned along the ways.
RF: Okay so what was one difficulty teaching during the pandemic?
RO: During 2020 it was really difficult to teach kids when they were at home you know I had a lot of students trying really hard but at the same time they were like the caretakers for their siblings so they were babysitting taking care of kids as they where trying to learn you know which made it really difficult to learn also had a lot of kids who didn’t have access to wifi and so they would be trying their best to try to share in the class discussions that we were trying to have online. It was also tough for the kids you know like hearing them like they wanted to leave their house they wanted to get out they wanted to leave with their friends but they couldn’t. I felt so powerless you know cause I couldn’t do anything to help them to get out of that so I think that the hardest part was to learn how to control which was trying to be there for the students trying to provide as much as I could  an then also kinda letting go of what I couldn’t control and just supporting the students as much as I could with what I had.
RF: Any personal challenges during the pandemic?
RO: Yea I think just like a lot of people’s mental health took a hit being stuck in doors, the worry the fear or getting Covid. Especially at the beginning, it feels like so long ago but I mean remember like March 2020 we were like washing our sauce packets from take-out, you know, or like washing everything, just freaking out thinking that we were gonna be seriously hurt or die if we got Covid. So I think all that fear and anxiety was a big challenge in mental health, and not being able to see my family either because my parents are older, that was difficult and I missed going out and seeing my friends and being able to be outside without fear that I was gonna get Covid or get someone else Covid. I felt like that was a big fear, but I think that just like with everything, like everything kinda got over it as a community, we kinda got through it together. Like people supported each other we all realized that we were on the same boat feeling all the effects on our mental health so that helped a lot.
RF: Were you scared?
RO: I mean I was really lucky that, you know, I had no prior medical history that made me feel really really scared. I’m not one to compromise but I was definitely scared for my family. My parents are older and, um yea, they could have gotten, before Covid we have had big health scares with them so, just like, now it felt like every minute that they went out. My mom and dad couldn’t stop working so they had to go out into the community all the time and so it was a big fear that they would get hurt, so it was definitely fearful for them more than I was for myself.
RF: So coming back from the pandemic and hiding in the house, how was it different from online school to in-person?
RO: In person has been great. I mean, the first year things have been hard for the students to really adjust to like, being at home to all these school rules. Like that’s definitely hard, so its like hard as a teacher to know that, yea its something, that difficult transition but also a necessary thing. Like we need to have rules to keep everybody safe and engaged, um, but being in person has been great. I love to see you all and getting to talk to you without a screen in the middle, you know, it’s really nice to get to connect with all the students. Y’all are amazing!