Teacher Perspective on Distance Learning
For many of us students, March 13, 2020 was the last day we spent in a physical classroom. We scrambled to gather our belongings from our lockers and say goodbye to our friends for what we thought would be a week of at-home learning. That week became two, then spring break passed. Semester 2 finals were completed, and summer vacation came and went in the blink of an eye. We have all had to adjust to distance learning over the past year, and while it was easier for some, others still find it difficult. As students, we focus on our experience, but we are leaving out a vital part of the distance learning transition: teachers.
In a survey recently sent out to several teachers, they responded with how they transitioned into distance learning, including the difficulties of teaching online and changes they made in their curriculum to fit into our block schedule.
Mrs. Kadavy, currently an English 11, English 11 MCA, and AP English Language and Composition teacher, has worked at Clayton Valley for six years. She described her experience in the survey. Block schedule makes it difficult to cover as much material as she would in class, but she makes up for it by focusing on essential concepts and skills. She utilizes Tutorial Days on Wednesdays to have her students reinforce the skills they learned throughout the week.
The other teachers surveyed have also needed to cut some topics and prioritize others. They spend a lot of their time planning live and asynchronous lessons and creating new assignments that can be done solely online.
Some teachers notice students struggling in class and require them to attend office hours where they will receive extra help with content and concepts. One of the questions asked on the survey concerned the attendance of their office hours. The answers ranged from ten to twenty different students attending office hours in a week to less than five a week.
As online learning has caused hands-on activities to be cut, alternatives are taking their place. Platforms such as Labster, Gizmos, and Pivot are being used to replace labs and practicals. While it is not as gratifying as doing a lab yourself, these websites are able to reinforce lab protocol and teach key concepts. Other websites and tools that are prominent in the online classroom include: Edpuzzle and Flipgrid for video assignments; Turnitin for writing assignments; and Kahoot and Padlet to check for understanding during class.
Even though distance learning has been a tough transition for some teachers, there are still some positive learning experiences they will be able to use once we are back on campus. In the survey, Mrs. Kadavy described how she organizes her materials for the day into folders on Schoology to make them easily accessible. Even though creating folders for each class period is a time-consuming process, she noted how it adds structure to her skill-based lessons and curriculum as a whole. She plans on continuing to make folders and daily updates even as we transition into in-person learning.
Other responses from the survey concerning the positives of distance learning include being able to check for understanding more creatively and frequently than in a normal school year as well as cutting back on paper usage. Generally, the teachers who responded agreed that they have been able to use Schoology to their advantage. Being able to organize their assignments on the Schoology homepage makes it easier for both themselves and their students to access. Students can easily see what assignments are due and what is missing. Additionally, some teachers commented on how they will continue to make video lessons even when we return to in-person learning.
As the end of Quarter 3 approaches, we pass the one year mark of distance education. Clayton Valley hopes to move to hybrid learning this coming April as the county opens up. Whether you attend school in person or online, remember to appreciate the teachers that make class possible. Attend office hours and ask your teachers for help on content you don’t understand; they are here to help!
Mrs. Kadavy hopes that students can be back in the classroom as soon as possible. She wishes she was able to meet her students in person and see them thrive in the classroom this year, but in lieu of a physical greeting, she leaves this message:
“I am SO proud of you for working so hard and hanging in there this year. I wish I could work with you in the classroom and see you enjoy the normal high school experiences. You are stronger than you think, and this experience will eventually lead you to handle other adverse experiences in your future with confidence and strength. I have so much confidence in your abilities and potential to do great things in this world!”