As a teacher, I know there is no substitute for being in the classroom, engaging with the students and supervising their work, making suggestions or guiding their thinking. When you create a constructive, productive learning environment, students thrive.
Over the past few weeks, my school has worked really hard to reproduce that in an online learning environment. My colleagues and I have put a great deal of thought and preparation into making our students’ experiences of learning from home in online classes as interesting and beneficial as they can possibly be. From where I stand, we’ve done a great job of preparing for teaching and learning from home, and I really hope that our students and their parents feel the same way.
Today was our first day of teaching and learning remotely. My students were well behaved and cooperative. Most seem to have coped with the challenges of doing school at home, some of them sharing an environment with their siblings who were also doing their lessons at home, quite well. We got through everything I had planned for those initial lessons. Judging from the work they handed in today, the kids generally worked as well as they usually do in a classroom environment.
I don’t know how they all felt at the end of the school day, but by the time 3.30pm rolled around, I was exhausted.
Make no mistake: online teaching is really hard. It’s mentally demanding in ways that physical presence in the classroom is not. It’s harder to hear students when they speak, and it’s harder to be sure that everyone understands what you say or what you want them to do. Even marking the roll poses new challenges when you can’t simply identify empty spaces in the classroom. Things that have become instinctive for teachers are now impossible, and we find ourselves reinventing pedagogy, teaching, communication, and the delivery of lessons and lesson materials.
You can no longer maintain classroom management by circulating around the room or standing in strategic places so you can see what kids have on their screens. You can’t just look over a kid’s shoulder and remind them of a principle or fact that they need to consider. You can’t make a teaching point of quickly correcting an error or oversight.
To an extent, one has to just accept that and move on. If a student is easily distracted or willing to be inattentive, that is understandable: there’s a lot going on, they’re at school without being at school, they’re in their own environment, and some of them are genuinely anxious about the dangers and the restrictions that Covid-19 has brought about. Really, the best you can hope for is to find a way to gently bring their attention back to the task and try to re-focus them.
It’s a tricky set of circumstances for the kids as it is, and adding learning at home to the strangeness of social isolation and distancing is a situation that some kids — and some teachers — will undoubtedly find awkward at best.
Still, it’s good for all of us, kids and teachers alike, to have a routine and a variety other things to think about. It is healthy and constructive use of the abundant time we would otherwise have on our hands at this point in time.
As tired as I was, they day did end particularly well. After spending 90 minutes with one of my classes this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised when three of my students thanked me for the lesson. In the past, wishing each other a good afternoon or a pleasant evening was not unusual, but having students actually thanking me for double English after lunch on Tuesday is totally new.
I spent the rest of my regular school day responding to the work they submitted, and giving my students some feedback on their ideas and responses. It was nice to be able to
At 4.15pm, I made myself a cup of coffee and almost cried into it with gratitude for my good but mentally exhausting day, and for the caffeine upon which I would rely for the next couple of hours while I cooked dinner and did everything else I needed to do.
When dinner was done, I looked at my husband and asked if it was too early to go to bed.
“It’s 6.15pm,” he said.
“So probably, then?” I asked.
Maybe I’ll just spend the time between now and bedtime thinking about what gift I’m going to buy myself for Teacher Appreciation Week.
Whatever it is, I will have earned it.
One teacher’s thoughts on the first day of teaching and learning while #StayingHomeTweet
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