Distance Learning is rough on teachers too

By Nasheetah Hossain

One day in English teacher Josh Mandell’s class, they were working on an activity and Google refused to load for anyone. After many tries of sharing his screen to show a clip of a video, it still would not work, so he tried a DVD. It wouldn’t work on Zoom, so he switched to Google Meets, when then his internet failed. He logged back in but everyone else kept dropping in and out. 

  “We eventually rallied and made our way back to the assignment, but not after the concussion I gave myself banging my head on my desk,” Mandell said. 

While not all teaching days are fraught with such technological mishaps, teachers are struggling with the same issues students are: tons of new applications, spotty internet, and crashing websites. 

Although students have many expectations of their teachers during these trying times, it is also important to take into consideration that it is not easy for teachers either and that we as students can help to make distance learning smoother for teachers just as they are trying to do for us. 

Many teachers are now forced to create completely new assignments due to the different session length, the online format, or even just the student participation. Other teachers are working to learn new programs and applications on top of grading and planning to help keep students engaged and learning. Other teachers, just like us, are getting headaches from too much screen time. 

They do all of this because they want to see us still learning and engaged in a rigorous course load, even though it is from home.

As students, while we are now stuck at home, we are probably in our pajamas with messy hair leaning over the webcam of our computers, constantly double checking to make sure we are still on mute. Teachers are apparently still shocked by this new world as well.

“There are so many differences between online teaching and in-person teaching, it’s almost easier to just say what is the same. The things that are the same are: My students still make me laugh every day, and my students fill me with hope every day.  We also still learn a lot!  The first thing that comes to mind that is different is that I don’t wear shoes anymore,” math teacher Sara Fram said. 

Beyond the fact that none of us wears shoes anymore, we are also all struggling to really feel like we are a part of the classroom anymore. Through distance learning it is also very difficult to make students feel understood and validated. Many students are shy and it is even more difficult to make them feel comfortable enough to open up. Many students are also more tired now than ever before. This is a struggle for teachers who need student engagement and communication to be able to truly help students.

“The biggest difference between online and in-person teaching, is that I don’t feel like I know my students very well. Online teaching makes it difficult for me to build a positive rapport with my students. As a teacher, I enjoy getting to know my students because I learn so much about them and it allows me to know what they need help with. However, it is difficult to get to do this through an online medium. It’s just not the same,” English teacher Crystal Fernandez said. 

So as our teachers are struggling to re-write their entire curriculum and manage the huge email list each morning, it is important that we remember that they too are humans struggling with something new. It is easy to think of teachers as just an extension of Google Classroom, but they need us too. 

So there are a few simple things we can do as students to make the teaching experience easier and more enjoyable, thereby making teachers more effective in our classes. First, we can say hello when we first enter the class. This small act of friendliness adds a human element to an otherwise silent Zoom or Meet screen. We can also do our best to participate either with our mics or with the chat. Teachers thrive on student engagement and that makes the class more exciting for everyone. Finally, we can engage in open communication in terms of what we need whether that’s a flexible due date or additional help on an assignment. Communication is really the key to keeping ourselves and our teachers sane until we’re back in the classroom.

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