Courtesy of The New York Academy of Sciences
Central teachers are having just as much trouble adjusting to e-learning as students. Since the start of the school year on Aug. 17, teachers have been scrambling to put together meaningful lessons for students that remain effective over Zoom.
The teachers have said that while the stress of lesson planning, grading, and teaching is similar, there is also an added stress of the unknown. The uncertainty of how the school year will progress, how students are feeling, and what will happen next is weighing them down.
Part of that stress involves if they will be able to effectively relay information to students over Zoom. The teachers said that their grade averages so far have been about the same for upperclassmen, but the grades of freshmen are significantly lower.
“My freshmen are really hard to help because part of teaching a freshman class is helping them transition to high school and I’m not able to do that,” said Mr. Brian Griffin, math teacher.
Upperclassmen have more of an idea what they need to do to stay organized, learn, and maintain a high grade point average. However, there are benefits to a little bit of struggle for the students.
“We have to remember all of the executive functioning skills [the students] are getting better at, all the problem solving skills that they’re getting better at,” said Ms. Jordan Stob, English teacher.
Another struggle for teachers has been the lack of nonverbal cues that Zoom provides. Images are broken up and they don’t show students full bodies. On top of that, cameras aren’t always on.
“I really like the interaction and…it’s really hard to not get feedback from students’ body language because all those nonverbal cues that you get from students guide what you do,” Griffin said.
Other teachers said that it is also harder for themselves to emphasize things over Zoom because of their inability to control their volume and convey their own body language.
Personal interactions with students and the ability to build relationships has also been difficult throughout online learning. The lack of in-person interaction has been hard for both students and teachers.
“One of the reasons I went into this job and that so many other people went into this job is because of the relationships we get to build with students, and it’s not the same trying to build those relationships over Zoom,” said Mrs. Sanskruti Patel, social studies teacher.
Some teachers said they are struggling to connect with students, feel out how they are doing, and help students feel comfortable communicating with them.
“I know a lot of my colleagues are working really hard to try and make this as effective as possible and I hope students feel comfortable enough sharing with their teachers what’s working and what’s not because it’s really hard for us to tell and the more that students give, the more they are going to get out of this,” Patel said.
This communication helps everyone involved progress along the path of a successful school year. Teachers said they have appreciated the flexibility of the block schedule and the effort they see being put in by students.
The things teachers would like to change about online learning range from the requirement of having cameras on, in order to pick up on as much body language as possible and keep students accountable, and the opportunity to build in-person relationships at least for a couple days to give them something to work with over Zoom. The in-person interaction they were looking for will begin the week of Oct. 5.
Most teachers have said they’re using Zoom for class calls. The main appeal of Zoom over other platforms is its ability to create breakout rooms. For tests, they have mostly been using Canvas. However, some teachers have been avoiding tests because of the potential of academic dishonesty. To not put their students in the position, they have been focusing more on essays, speeches, and graded discussions.
An important part of the school year for certain teachers is maintaining traditions. Many have been finding ways to do this over Zoom, like wearing a certain shirt while teaching a specific lesson, reading aloud certain parts of books and more. This has been important for many to bring a sense of normalcy back to teaching this year.
“I think this year is all about adapting, flexibility and just accepting what you can control and letting go of what you can’t,” Patel said.