When ninth grade English teacher Erin Anthony started her class Friday morning, no students were sitting at their desks.
"I miss being with students," Anthony said. "I miss those relationships."
Anthony hosted one of Dallas ISD's "Social Emotional Learning Teacher Forums." It's a place where teachers can talk about the challenges of doing their jobs during a pandemic and the mental health issues that surface because of it.
"We're coming together and we're not being expected to be the problem solvers. We're just able to come and be as we are and kind of share what we're feeling," Anthony said. "There's just been a lot of support, and in that, a lot of comfort knowing that there are other people out there who are struggling with the same thing."
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"Just accept the fact that this year is weird," Genevieve Ma'yet said.
Ma'yet is a chemistry and environmental science teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. She said she's adapted her teaching to fit the unique needs of students this year.
"They spend so much time in front of a screen, it gets to the point where they're just like, 'I can't watch another video. I just can't sit in front of a screen anymore,'" Ma'yet said. "They're burned out."
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Ma'yet said she's engaged her students by starting each day with a theme, like "Motivational Monday," or "Terrible Tuesday."
"So those are the days I post terrible puns," Ma'yet said. "For example, 'The other day there was a kidnapping at school, but don't worry, they woke up!'"
Ma'yet said while she is a teacher, her role is bigger than that, bigger than giving students a grade.
"I don't want to say they're not important, but in the long run they're not important," Ma'yet said of grades. "Your mental health, your physical health, that's far more important than any chemistry class you will ever take."
Dallas ISD is hosting a Mental Health Matters Virtual Symposium on May 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's open to the community. To register click here.