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Teaching During COVID-19

The start of school can be a nerve-wracking experience for many of us, but rarely do students stop and think about the teachers as well. With this irregular year, educators are forced to throw many norms out the window and quickly adapt to this new environment. Although necessary for the greater good, students and educators […]

The start of school can be a nerve-wracking experience for many of us, but rarely do students stop and think about the teachers as well. With this irregular year, educators are forced to throw many norms out the window and quickly adapt to this new environment. Although necessary for the greater good, students and educators alike are struggling with the contrast between normal school and the present. I have personal insight on the stresses that affect our teachers: my mom is a teacher at a public middle school, and is overwhelmed with the chaos surrounding their move to distance learning. This got me thinking about how CB teachers were getting used to running their classes from home and what they were learning about online school.

I talked to some of my teachers to find out how they have been adapting to the change. One common problem that they mentioned was the lack of connection between teacher and student.

“There’s something about being in a class and having those quick interactions,” says social studies teacher Mr. Michael Hood. “I think I’ll get to know just about everyone, but it’ll take longer than in a classroom.”

Math teacher Mrs. Carla Albright ’04 likes to get a read on her students for that particular day to gauge how they’re doing, how they’re learning, and to check if they need a break.

“I just can’t get that feeling for how everyone is doing today, you know?” she exasperated.

“Having taught non-digitally for 21 years, it’s hard to just jump into it,” says science teacher Ms. Holly Keller. “It’s challenging in the sense that you can’t have a one-on-one conversation with a student. I see their faces, but I don’t get their true person.”

Ms. Keller also holds concerns about the technology we use for school.

“Sometimes it’s online issues; there’s the internet, there’s testing issues, kids not being able to get into the classroom because the ‘Join’ button [on Teams] disappears.”

There’s much about the unique atmosphere of a classroom that digital school struggles to replicate; both we as students and the teachers realize this. Even though that experience of being in-class is lost, these teachers don’t think that digital learning is all bad. Mr. Hood seems receptive and optimistic to teaching on Teams. He feels that the limitations on time and medium give him the opportunity to provide students with the information that really matters and cut out the fluff.

“Because of this new schedule, and it’s tighter, I’m being much more selective about what I cover, and I kind of like it,” he told me. “Instead of ‘filling’ your time, I’m being really picky.”

Since Mrs. Albright is going back to school as she gets her PhD, digital learning actually spares her long commutes to both Stockton and CB, giving her more time to spend with her family and to relax in her busy life.

“Instead of finishing school [in Stockton] at 10 [PM] and getting home at 11, I’m in bed right after I’m done,” she points out.

Attitudes about this school year may be bleak, but Mr. Hood shared with me his optimism about the effect on students long-term. He believes that this challenging time will help us grow.

“There’s a silver lining,” he says. “Your ability to be adaptable, I think, is going to be more than someone else’s, and your comfort with the digital world will be much more than anyone else.”

Despite these positives, no one wants to be stuck online. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I can’t wait to be able to go back to school in person. No matter how hard the school tries, there’s no making up for the experiences and ease of learning that we get at school in person. Students don’t connect through the classes themselves; they connect at passing, during break, at lunch, after school, during sports, all of these which rely on physical presence.

Being wholly online takes away all of those chances to interact with our peers and leaves only the least desirable of them. And teachers don’t get the chance to truly meet their students because of the anonymity of being online, detracting from their connections to their classes as well as their ability to teach effectively.

Ms. Keller, who can’t wait to get back into the lab, summed up her feelings, as well as mine, pretty concisely: “It’s challenging because it’s not what we want.”

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