I am a ninth-grade science teacher at an all-boys school, and a mother to three children. As a teacher and a parent during this pandemic, it was really difficult to balance teaching and being available for my kids while they were working through their assignments. Thankfully, my kids’ teachers were amazing and were super flexible. I would like to say that distance learning went more smoothly for my children because I’m a teacher as well as a parent— but there’s a reason why I don’t teach my kids.
As a science teacher, I was able to help my kids with certain subjects that were grappling with. For example, my seventh grade daughter was learning about angles and triangles and I was able to help her with math. She actually had to build an oven for school one time, and having a science background was really helpful.
At home, my sixth grader would often sit still for long stretches of time, as she is a slow but long thinker. My youngest son was probably the worst to have at home. Because he’s most likely borderline ADHD, sitting in front of a computer all day was especially difficult for him. At home, we usually have very little technology because I normally encourage my kids to play outside, so I had to monitor my son very closely during this time to make sure he was on track for everything— which was very frustrating sometimes.
Overall, my kids’ teachers did a really good job. Nobody was given any preparation for this, so they exceeded my expectations. Their teachers would often call the house and always made sure to check in with us through Zoom or through emails. I really appreciated their efforts.
As a teacher myself, I think we did the best that we could with our students, given the limited amount of time we were given to prepare. We did some asynchronous learning and some synchronous learning. I feel like it was pretty successful for me, as I had already established very good relationships with my students, so I didn't have to worry about a lack of engagement. Most of my students were not missing any classes, and I often had a 100% attendance.
For kids with learning differences, under normal circumstances, you have the opportunity to sit next to them so you can get a better gauge for whether or not they’re having trouble understanding something. However, continuing that level of support now was really hard in the form of distance learning. During study hall, I usually had guys just sit in the background of my Zoom call and hang out for two hours, but there were also some guys who really struggled to focus, as most of their energy would normally come from being in the classroom. There are often lapses of silence in Zoom calls because you lose the organic dynamic of the classroom. I would say that I struggled to adjust to distance learning as well.
Overall, I think our school was successful with distance learning, but I would say in the same breath that I don’t like distance learning. If we continue with distance learning next year, we need to do better. That is why I have signed up for four professional development courses: focused on teaching in a hybrid setting, engaging with science content, and teaching students with learning differences. I hope that these workshops can give me a nice well-rounded set of tools in case we are going back to distance learning. Even when we go back to in-person learning, I hope that I can provide a better program to my students than I did in the Spring. I think that now that we’ve had a whole summer to prepare, we need to ensure that there are no gaps in our students’ educations.
Written by: Tony He