Teachers adapt to the new challenge of virtual learning

Teachers+adapt+to+the+new+challenge+of+virtual+learning

Maya Garrison, Staff Writer

We all know that the school year of 2020-21 has had a very peculiar, some might even say, anticlimactic, beginning. The shift from in person to online learning is a very significant change for not only students, but also teachers. 

There has obviously been a significant change in student life during online schooling, and teachers have been trying to make the transition as smooth as possible for students. Part of a teacher’s job is to interact and form connections with students, so that students can feel comfortable coming to them when they have questions. With online learning, it is more difficult to make these connections through a screen. 

“Teachers rely heavily on visual cues in class to know who understands, who is struggling and what additional practice is needed to make sure everyone has the opportunity to understand an idea or process,” chemistry teacher Mr. Taylor said. “Virtual learning requires a more intentional use of tools like the chat, thumbs up or other ways to check for understanding.”

The jobs of teachers have completely shifted from teaching in person and interacting with students face-to-face, to presenting slideshows on Google Meet and talking to students with muted microphones. 

“The two biggest differences between online and in-person teaching for me are not being able to make small talk with individual students, and the increased amount of planning it takes to make a virtual lesson plan,” Spanish teacher Mrs. Moss said.  

Moss also misses watching the students interact, and speak Spanish with each other in her classroom. It is easier to learn a different language when you are speaking constantly with classmates in pairs or small groups. However, Moss thinks that students will still be able to learn the language just as well in online learning, as long as they put some effort into it. 

“I personally feel like the students will get out of this experience what they put into it,” Moss said. “If they want to be successful in Spanish, they need to try hard, pay attention to the notes and complete the independent work to the best of their abilities.” 

Spanish is not the only subject that will require students to stay engaged and push themselves to learn new material. Teachers will have to creatively find new ways to teach lessons designed for a hands-on environment. Labs have always been an important component of science classes, and it will be difficult for students to perform experiments from home. 

“Students learn in different ways and the lab component of science classes is very helpful to those who need to learn by doing,” Mr. Taylor said. “I hope we will get the opportunity, eventually, to do in-person labs but, in the meantime, we will be doing some simulations, where students can see them virtually and analyze the results, and, in some cases, simple labs that can be safely done with at-home materials. For most of my classes, those experiences will be part of the work that students do independently on Fridays each week.” 

While many students have popularized the idea of sleeping in and putting off work on Fridays, teachers recommend taking advantage of this day without synchronous classes to get a handle on work that is difficult. Teachers are busy with meetings in the morning, but in the afternoon, they are available for students who need extra help. 

This time is perfect for students who are struggling with certain aspects of assignments or need help with the material as a whole. It provides students with one-on-one time with teachers, which is especially beneficial due to the fact that students and teachers are not able to meet in person. 

Teachers also advise students to use their extra time on Fridays to get ahead in classes and catch up on work, so they can relax over the weekend. While most students only talk with their teachers if they need help, Fridays also provide a time for students to reach out to their teachers about other things, including how they are adjusting to online learning. 

This new school year has proved to be much more different than the start of previous years. However, with the last day of the week being more flexible than the rest, teachers hope that students will reach out, whether it is for help, or just to connect. 

 

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