This school year and last school year has been an experience like no other. Last year, when we left the classroom in March we had no idea what to expect and we had no idea how to teach virtually. I heard many teachers say, “we are building the plane while we are flying it.” We were building the plane and flying it at the same time because this was something new to the world of education. Virtual learning was uncharted territory for many of us. However, teachers across this country proved that we are essential – we rose to the challenge and learned how to teach our students through a computer screen.
I will never forget the day we were sent home in March to quarantine for two weeks. Our two weeks turned into a month and our month turned into three months. I was saddened to know that I would never get the chance to properly say goodbye to my students. I wasn’t going to be able to have my traditional end of year celebrations. As a teacher, my first concern was making sure that my students were safe and, secondly, making sure that the learning continued. I knew that there was so much more material to be learned and taught. Our district provided learning packets to help students continue to learn, but I knew that was not enough. I began to take those packets and turn them into Google Slides and make daily lessons for my families and students. I am not only a teacher, I am a parent as well. I saw myself in those parents – learning to juggle working from home and helping my children learn. I knew I had to make the transition easy for them.
This is my 6th year teaching and this year has been the most challenging year by far. Some of the challenges that I faced were technology issues, chronic student absences, lack of parental support, lack of student motivation, lack of student engagement, COVID cases in school and trying to stay safe and healthy for myself and my family. The district has created so many inconsistencies by flip flopping back and forth from in-person learning to remote learning.
But the most challenging thing this year for me is teaching a hybrid class. A hybrid class is a mix of remote students and in-person students. Hybrid classrooms are challenging to teach because as a teacher you are being pulled in two different directions, you have to teach remote students and in-person students at the same time. Students who are learning at home are oftentimes not as engaged in the lesson. They are distracted by the TV, siblings or parents. Teaching hybrid and remote you have to try to teach through the distractions. Not being able to refocus my students at home has been challenging. When students are in person you can tap on their desk to refocus them or give them “the look.” With remote learning, a student can mute their computer and turn their screen off and you have no clue if they are in class or not.
Hybrid learning also creates problems with equity. Students who are learning in person have the advantage of having the teacher directly in front of them, access to manipulatives and access to technology. Not all resources that are available to students work well for virtual learning. As a dedicated teacher to my students, hybrid learning is not what is best for students and teachers. My hope and prayer is that hybrid learning is not the new norm, but if it is, I will embrace the challenge again and do my best to teach and help every student to the best of my ability. Educators will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this year and do what we do best to educate our students.