Online School From a Teachers' Perspective
By: Amy Boehm
So far, the 2020 “high school experience” has not been ideal for students. However, teachers do not have it any easier. To get a better perspective on what it is like to be a professional at e-learning, I got some information from a few teachers in different departments around the building.
There are some givens when it comes to the struggles associated with all digital learning: staring at students’ ceilings instead of their faces, cutting down lessons, and seemingly unfixable technological issues. Average lessons were not meant to fit in thirty-minute periods taught over a zoom call, therefore significant adaptations were required for most. Specifically, in reference to Driver Ed, there have been lots of rearrangements in the schedule. Mr. Eaton says, “[Students] have shown up every time and have done an awesome job of changing “gears”...pun intended-about five different times.” Though the timing can be frustrating, the opportunity to see kids during their driving lessons has been a big plus for Mr. Eaton. Although the shortened periods make it difficult to teach a full lesson that includes fun and interactive elements, office hours and extra planning time are advantages of this.
There are also some challenges teachers face that many people would not consider. The struggle of teaching in a quiet classroom was something almost every teacher I talked to mentioned. Mrs. Neibch says: “I don’t like a silent classroom, and it is hard to get those reactions or interactions going while on the computer.” This can make it particularly difficult to gauge students’ understanding when teaching a new topic, or, as Mr. Klingelhoffer mentions, gauging amusement when cracking jokes! Also, being able to see faces instead of a blank screen is an easy fix and can have a significant impact on classes. It allows teachers to understand nonverbal communication, creates the sense of a real classroom, and makes it easier for them to get to know their students. “I wound up with expressive, fun groups of students who are mature enough to make the best of a tough situation with their consistent online engagement,” responds Mr. Klingelhoffer. Mr. Pribaz also remarks, “We don’t get the human interaction anymore-at least show me your face!” Additionally, the strange feeling of having no students buzzing around the building has been a difficult one to get used to-teachers miss the unmatchable feeling of being at Wheaton North.
In attempts to help out during these confusing times, I asked what students could do to make the online teaching experience easier. Many teachers responded saying that having a class willing to participate can make all the difference: “I would tell students to be bold and raise their hand...or even better, just unmute and say something! Be a part of the class!” Mr. Klingelhoffer finds it helpful when students don’t try to multitask during classes, “Eventually you will accidentally unmute yourself, and your singing, video gaming, etc. will be heard by the whole class. That puts your teacher in the tough spot of choosing whether to tell you what is happening or let you figure it out yourself...or spotlight your screen so the whole class gets a close-up shot of you singing.” Teachers want students to be present and actively paying attention in order to make it a successful lesson.
I think I speak for all of Wheaton North when I say we sympathize with the teachers. The desire to teach remotely is not what brought most of our staff into this profession, yet they are able to adapt and still do an excellent job. Though the circumstances are certainly less than ideal, teachers are still able to create an engaging, safe, and fun learning environment for all, and the students thank them for it!