The moment I was assigned a profile for my very first Her Campus article, I knew that I had to do one on Jennifer Wilder, my high school AP Literature teacher, who helped me gain confidence in my writing. I sat down with Mrs. Wilder over Zoom to ask her about teaching during the time of COVID and how she equips her students for their future endeavors.
Her Campus (HC): How have your high school students responded to learning during the pandemic this past year?
Jennifer Wilder (JW): It is quite an adjustment for kids who chose to stay at home e-learning because even though we’re supposed to follow a schedule, they’re realizing that they’re not as held accountable and it’s very easy to hide; to not participate. Some kids prefer it because they have quiet and space, but the number one thing that my kids always want is to be able to talk. My class is one of the only ones where they get to communicate and talk, so they feel left out in a lot of other classes.
HC: What is your philosophy on motivating students to learn while dealing with the challenges that the past year has presented them?
JW: The world is different, but this is where the world is going. If you look at medicine and telehealth, offices not going back to work, the entire world is shutting down. If the students can’t adjust to it, nor the teachers, then they’re going to fall behind because this is where the world is going, and they need to be prepared for that.
HC: If anything positive has come out of this experience for you and your students, what would it be?
JW: I think it’s cool that you really have to force yourself to think about… “how is learning?” and “what is learning?” and asking yourself if what you are doing in school is actually beneficial. And having to use tech and getting kids to be more tech-savvy… I personally like that. Our 21st century learning skills are much more important than deconstructing a poetic prompt that won’t get you very far in life.
HC: Are there any long-term effects on the public school system that you believe could remain after COVID-19 dies down?
JW: Mental health and learning gaps, 100 percent. More depression, more anxiety, more stress, more issues at home that students haven’t had to deal with before. The hardest, tenuous balance as a teacher is to make sure you’re giving kids an education and helping them move forward while also understanding their emotional wellbeing.
HC: Pandemic aside, how do you believe that teaching students good writing skills can benefit them in their future endeavors?
JW: Strong writing, I think, is the number one skill that you can have. Most people cannot write. If you can write eloquently and clearly, you’ll be further ahead than people around you and at your job and you can communicate what you want better.
HC: In what ways do you try to benefit your students for their futures outside of the realm of writing?
JW: We do blogs, we create infographics, we use programs like Canva. Not just gimmicky things but work that you can take with you outside of the classroom to be prepared to show what you can do in multiple places.
HC: How do you specifically ensure that these long-term benefits work in favor for the young women that you teach?
JW: Being a woman who can clearly speak her mind and not worry about judgement and stand by my convictions, that’s something that I can share with my female students. You don’t need to back down because you’re a girl. You need to share your voice and not worry about judgement because you’re going to get it, especially if you’re a woman. I know that as a woman and a leader what I say can have me deemed “a b*tch” but if a man had said it, it’s just “what the boss wants.” You have to trust and believe in your own voice because others won’t do it for you.
HC: Since Her Campus is primarily a women’s publication, what advice would you give to women who want to pursue a writing-intensive career?
JW: To write. To write often. And to believe in your voice when no one else will because there’s something in it that’s unique, even though someone might want to edit it and cultivate it in a different way. You know who you are better than anybody.