During this global pandemic, many essential workers are needed, including educators. Students are under pressure and stress from taking in online courses, but many educators are under pressure as well.
Online courses have taken a toll on numerous key points of running a classroom, such as the first ten minutes of the class being most important for students to attend, creating engaging activities or assessments for online classes, and having to learn the faces of students when teachers only see their initials.
Core classes are the main foundation of a student’s education. These courses are English, math, science, and history. Student attendance for class overall is important to the education system — without students, there would be no school and little learning accomplished.
Attendance during a normal school year has absences due to vacations, dentist appointments, illness, and more, but during the COVID-19 school year, many students as well as teachers have been absent due to quarantine. With the online setting, it is easier for students to attend school and teachers to educate the students even if they are in struck at home in isolation or quarantine.
The first few minutes of class are an important time because that is when teachers explain the current or following day. Teachers put together agendas or just reminders for students to look at. If and when students join their online class late, they may be confused about the instructions of the day.
“I believe that it is important for students to attend the first ten minutes because teachers are outlining what the students should expect for the day,” said math teacher Ms. Brittany Goshia. “They are reviewing what they went over last class period and giving an introduction for the new knowledge students will gain that day.”
This can be difficult because students that join the class late are then often uninformed about the outline for the rest of the school day. While some teachers take time to stop the class and inform everyone again on the agenda, other teachers won’t and just keep teaching.
Ms. Goshia explained she often has to go back and update attendance because students must be marked as participating even if they are late.
She said, “I have created a solution by asking students to send me an email or message me in the chat that they logged on late, so I can go back and fix it once the class is over.”
Due to the COVID-19 guidelines, as long as a student is accounted for in class, they are marked for participation even if they join the class late. During hybrid classes, this could be difficult for teachers going back and forth between the in-person students and the students logging in online to make sure every student is accounted for.
Teachers spend hours on end planning lessons to create interactive and engaging activities. With students being online, it is more difficult to incorporate those activities into a remote setting. Teachers have to get more creative to keep students engaged and participating.
Science teacher and Energy Academy Coordinator Ms. Shannon Krack has a lot of plans for the Energy Academy this year. “I’m really lucky to have been able to partner with the Innovation Center and the St. Vrain Mobile lab,” she said, “and at the beginning of this month, we were able to do a solar tour where we were able to go to four different solar arrays… and we’re putting together virtual resources for students to watch that.”
Ms. Krack’s solar tour has taken a field trip and turned it into a video for her online students to watch. This is a great way to have those engaging activities even though the students are behind a screen.
Sometimes students benefit more from being in person. English teacher Ms. Cassie Sonnenberg said, “I feel like this [time] that we have been hybrid, the online engagement has actually been better… In-person is so much easier! It’s just not being able to read people’s faces and see if they understand what I’m saying and get some interaction and feedback is really hard.”
Engagement and participation from students are important for the teacher to get a grasp on where the students are in their learning. With in-person interaction, it is easier to see if the students are understanding the material instead of with 20 or 30 blank screens that give little input.
The teacher-student bond is a very important part of a school in general. While taking online courses, it is difficult for teachers to form those bonds and meet their students. Core teachers have an easier time creating teacher-student relationships because they have the same students year-round, while most elective teachers have different students each semester.
Teachers encourage students to turn their cameras on, but some students choose to keep them off. With the hybrid schedule, teachers are now able to put half a face — due to the masks — to the name of a student. This makes it easier to create real relationships.
“There are some of them who I’d never seen before; until last week, I had no idea what they even looked like,” said Ms. Sonnenberg.
Students create those teacher bonds over time by getting help with assignments and answering questions in the classroom. Teachers create those bonds by educating the students and getting to know them through the every day interactions that can be difficult to have online.
As Ms. Krack said, “Honestly, for me personally I like human interaction. I’m a really big fan of talking to my kids, and I’m a really big fan of seeing faces, and seeing a blank screen when you just see that and it’s that times 35, it’s really hard because there’s no back and forth. So not seeing a face is difficult for me.”
Although turning in assessments on time and studying can be stressful, teachers have to lesson plan, engage students, create bonds, take attendance, and overall help students turn in the assessments on time. Educators are essential workers during this pandemic.
This year students and teachers go hand-in-hand experiencing the upsides and downsides of online learning.