How teachers are working through pressure of online teaching

By Anna Schmader
September 23, 2020

Student focuses with animal crackers via Michelle Guerin
Student focuses with animal crackers via Michelle Guerin

Online teaching has made developing personal relationships difficult between the teacher and the student. Seeing the other person through a screen doesn’t have the same feel that in-person does. When the camera or mic stops working, the internet shuts down or the student can’t afford the internet, it leads to more issues.

Three teachers, from kindergarten to university, shared their struggles with Loquitur.

From kindergarteners to college students learning online, there’s a struggle in every crevice. The internet has been the biggest issue and the biggest bully. By shutting a student out, lagging for half the class, reconnecting and overall inconsistency, sometimes it feels like it’s not worth the trouble. 

The mental and physical frustration these teachers and professors go through can go unseen. But educators will always put in more work than perceived to create lesson plans on various platforms to give the students all the material necessary.

“Kids are getting cheated from their education,” Michelle Guerin, a 2020 digital communication and social media graduate, said. 

Guerin works as an educator for kindergarteners at Right At School in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Here, Zoom is used in the classroom through an iPad. There have been difficulties targeting education plans for this younger group. “Specifically in kindergarten, they don’t know how to tell time,” Guerin said. This has further made it difficult for the kids to concentrate and accommodate, so Guerin uses animal crackers as a focus tool.

Student focuses with animal crackers via Michelle Guerin

Logging into the class then waiting 20 minutes for webcams to turn on, mics to work properly, to share the screen without technical difficulties takes up time. There’s even been a “life hack” where keeping your camera off helps the microphone. The conclusion is that these small technological issues add up.

However, for Lisa Franks, French adjunct professor at Cabrini University, it’s been smoother sailing with online learning. In the past, Franks has taught an online course so there’s a background understanding. By using Zoom instead of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, more faces can be seen to keep the students engaged. “It’s important to see faces,” Franks said.

Another way Franks has kept the student-teacher relationship open is with office hours and emails. Through this, students with learning disabilities are open to individual help.

There are students who have learning disabilities where they need more tools in order to stay on track. Some students don’t want to put the camera on.

Some go so far as to create a video loop to make it appear they are present when in fact… it’s a lie. 

Carrie Grabowicz, biology adjunct professor at Cabrini University, puts 10+ hours into her lesson plans to accommodate for students with learning disabilities.  “I set up my classes so students don’t have to even ask for what they need,” Grabowicz said. By doing this work, she makes the work accessible so students don’t go on a scavenger hunt for materials.

Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Microsoft Teams, eVision, Youtube, Wacom and mirPod are the many tools among others that have made teaching online tolerable. Although no matter how many gadgets and tools there are, nothing comes close to an in-person class.

It’s obvious that online schooling isn’t the most accessible. Some say they learn better online at their own pace. Then helping students with learning disabilities has its obstacles. But these teachers and professors put in hours on hours of work to give their students the education needed. 

Even though today’s world is not at all normal, “being able to see the kids play like normal kids during recess is so refreshing,” Guerin said.

Right At School classroom via Michelle Guerin

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Anna Schmader

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