A few weeks ago, teachers didn’t know what it would be like to teach exclusively online. There were so many questions: What if the students can’t connect? How will I know if the students are engaged? How will I know if they are learning? Although we now have a few days under our belt, these questions still remain.
Teachers always want what’s best for their students. They want them to learn regardless of the situation. Although we don’t have all the answers, I know that our teachers are working above and beyond expectations, to make this experience as positive as possible for their students.
The first-day jitters were different this year. Instead of trying to get my supplies and my classroom ready, I was busy setting up Google Meets, Google Classrooms, and becoming familiar with lots of new online material to use with my students.
I had to learn how to connect my grade book, my lessons, and my assignments so they were organized for students to access. To say it has been overwhelming would be an understatement.
I began my 21st year of teaching feeling like it was my first. I was ready for the first day, but then I realized there were all the other days that would follow and I needed to be prepared for those, too. It was time for me to learn “virtual” tricks to keep my students engaged all day in Google Meets, which was going to be exhausting for all of us.
Teaching virtually provides all sorts of new challenges in communication, lesson planning, grading and, most importantly, connecting with our students. All of this is possible, once we adjust to this new environment.
I miss the hallway interaction with students and families. I miss engaging my students when class begins. I miss the “goodbyes” and the “see you tomorrows.” Yes, it’s the little things. I love teaching the content, but I love the student interactions more. Working off a list of students with muted mics is just not the same.
Like my colleagues, I spend a lot of time trying to make the Google slides appealing. I ask students to raise their hands, unmute to speak, or write a question in the chat. I know they have logged on because I see their names or icons with photos, but they are still learning how to “unmute” in a timely manner. This is a strange new world for teachers who are used to the hustle and bustle of a live classroom.
What we’re doing now is keeping everyone safe until the time when we return to teaching as we once knew it. Students are doing what they can to keep up with all their classwork, teacher expectations, and connectivity issues. Computers can never replace in-person instruction. What keeps my colleagues and me going every day is the knowledge that we will see our students again.
Karen Rego has taught grades K-8 in the CH-UH district, and currently provides math and language support at Monticello Middle School. She is the president of Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.