My mom told me about the best word to call this period of teaching, she said it’s not online learning, it’s not distance or e-learning, its EMERGENCY learning. I like that term because many people seem to think that teachers can/should be covering the same material as we do in the classroom or that we should just transfer our brick-and-mortar teaching to online. That’s literally impossible right now. Also, many teachers are experiencing the worst time of their teaching careers right now, like many people going through this unprecedented stress and uncertainty.
We are however, luckier than most. We haven’t lost our jobs, our security, my sense of being, and we are safe.
My husband and I (he’s also a teacher) are now in week 4 (?) of official “distance learning” and week 6 (?) of our self-imposed social-distancing and it has been interesting to say the least. Here are a few of my takeaways from a teacher’s perspective:
#1. Parents are still the most difficult part
Literally the worst part of teacher (besides grades, see #2) is parents. Teachers who are parents also agree they are the worst part of the job. 🙂 I knew communication with home would go up during distance learning, but what has surprised me is parent responses. They still find creative ways to shift the blame from their kid to us. It’s laughable really but I feel bad for the kids.
Something I realized during all of this distance learning is that, for many of my lowest students, *I* was the thing keeping some of them from failing. My classwork now is about ⅓ what we normally do, and I’m not even teaching new content. Yet kids who were borderline, who relied on me to be their cheerleader, to help them, are failing…badly. They have less work, more time, yet without us there they don’t have seem to have the support system.
I’m not blaming parents, I know some of my kids families are going through crazy stuff. But I am shocked at the amount of shifting blame to anyone but their kid. And the lack of direct communication; very few of my parents tell me when their having difficulty until I email them. Why wait for me to reach out? I have 150 students; you have 1? 3? 5?
Let us help you.
#2. We grade 24/7
Grading sucksssss! It takes so much time to do well and yet the kids don’t ever care or look at the feedback. In a normal week I might seriously grade 2 assignments, other stuff is their participation in class or group assignments. But now, it’s ALL we do. I can’t see them participating, I can’t give them credit for cool connections in class I just read, read, read assignments.
And the worst part of this, is in class, I grade something ONCE. Very rarely do I allow redos but now it’s taking over my life. I want to give my kids multiple chances especially because I’m not there in person to help; I want to give my kids feedback that they *shocker* read and want to fix. But I’m exhausted. 150 kids x 3 assignments per week PLUS retakes! I had to throw up my hands this week and cut off turning in assignments from weeks 1 & 2 (were in week 4). It’s not that I’m mean or don’t love them or don’t want to help them; it’s that I can’t keep doing this. And I want them to transition to asking me before they turn something in.
Parents, sometimes you forget how many of your babies us high school teachers teach and sometimes you don’t realize the tough decisions we make that pull at our heartstrings, yet, in the end, it is actually helpful for your kids.
#3. I sit too much
I don’t track my steps but I sit probably collectively 1-2 hours during the normal work day and that’s it (granted, this isn’t every teacher but it’s me!). I swear I developed ADD after becoming a teacher because I have to move move move! First off, I love monitoring my kids and talking to them and, secondly, I don’t gain weight being on my feet all day. 🙂 But now, I’m stuck staring at a damn computer screen like half of the world.
I am currently typing this while standing, but if I didn’t up my workouts during this quarantine I’d be in serious trouble.
Stand up for good teaching.
#4. I only see one person all day
Imagine going from interacting DAILY with over 200 people: students, administrators, coworkers, students in the hall, etc. to now spending your whole day with one (very handsome) person: my husband. We haven’t tried to kill each other yet but it’s been one hell of a transition. I’m an extrovert and he’s an introvert but we are both used to seeing hundreds of people all day. Now that we’re in week 4 of teaching this way, we have found our pattern but video chatting with 1-5 kids a week in no way replaces hanging out with them all day.
Form a digital community.
#5. I do enjoy trying out new ways of learning
Now is the time to play around with new digital ways of learning (it’s the future and all!). Never done a video lecture? Well let’s go! Never did a group discussion online? Hey lets try it! Never done quizzing online? Ohhh hey I dig this!
This is actually what I was most excited about; I didn’t want to half-ass this. I didn’t want to just assign articles and notes and my kids told me so, via a survey I assigned week 1, they wanted to test out new things too! So hey, we’re trying it. Next year, I hope to incorporate some of these digital skills into my brick-and-mortar classroom.
Read more: Distance Teaching Lesson Plan: Epidemics
Stretch your horizons.
#6. I could never ever teach online
Will and I had played around with the idea of one of us moving to online teaching when/if we have a family to provide for flexibility in our schedules but this has shown me that is not for us. Now, I do know what we’re doing is NOT comparable to real online teaching but I don’t think I could be home all day, I don’t think I could go without the cool group activities or the collaboration I thrive on. But hey I’m glad I got this test run before leaving my job to only find out online teaching was not my cup of tea.
Read more: I just want to be a Teacher.
Be patient with yourself. Take this time to learn & grow.