Making the Switch to Online Learning: A Teacher’s Perspective

These past few weeks have been hard on everyone, especially doctors, nurses, and scientists. However, one profession that may be overlooked is teachers. Amongst the craziness that is our world today, teachers have had to quickly learn how to continue their classes online. My mom teaches 3rd grade and I have watched her take her lesson plans and learn how to implement her lessons online. Some days have been harder than others, however, I know every day she puts in her very best effort in order to continue to make an impact on her children. Here’s a glimpse into her new reality. 

Her Campus (HC): How many kids are in your class and what do you teach?

Karen Morris (KM): I have 38 kids in my gifted inclusion class with one co-teacher. I teach math, science and social studies and she teaches ELA (English Language Arts)

HC: Describe a typical day in the life of an online teacher. 

KM: Although we are two and a half weeks into this now, there doesn't seem to be a typical day as one day is different than the rest depending on the technology and whether or not it is cooperating. My day starts at 8:00 sharp with a video check-in call with our Principal, Mrs. Phillips. She tells us any new information or policy updates. Things are so uncertain and are changing every day so usually, there is something new that she conveys to us. That meeting lasts for 15 minutes. From 8:15-8:30 we have our online class check-in using the Teams app. Usually, our kids are on time and out of our 38 students, there are usually 30-32 of them at that meeting. The same kids don't come every morning (I think they sleep late) but all of our meetings and sessions are recorded so kids who don't see it live can go back and watch the video. That was important to do and establish early - not for our class so much but there are many families who have limited access to computers and the siblings have to share.  We only have one child out of our 38 who is not on the computer at all. All of our other kids are on at one point or another during the day.

This is where we take attendance and answer any questions. We also give them an overview of what to expect that day. This week has been extra fun because it's spirit week. Yesterday, we wore hats and PJs (and they loved showing off their hats to everyone). Today was crazy sock day. Tomorrow it's camouflage day ("disguise ourselves so the virus can't find us") and Thursday is neon day ("the future looks so bright").

At 8:30 I listen in while my co-teacher delivers the Readers or Writers workshop lesson, depending on the day. I monitor the chat to make sure everyone is focused and on task.  

At 9:30 I work on monitoring online instruction - checking on the platforms to see who is answering what questions and who might be struggling. I have over six different platforms to look at. At 10:00 we have office hours and are available to answer questions from parents or students (although in reality, we answer e-mails all day and then I have a live math lesson at 11:00. At 12:00 I try to get the mail, go for a quick walk or just stand outside for a bit and then at 1:00 I have my read aloud ("live). We were three chapters from the end of the book right before Spring Break so we finished that one and on Monday started, The One and Only Ivan. That was the kids’ favorite time during the day and is my favorite time at virtual school. I can feel them relaxing and enjoying the read aloud and enjoy knowing there is still a routine and we will still do this every day - even if it's only virtually.

At 1:30 the students go to "virtual" resource. Our resource teachers are second to none and have live PE, music, media and art lessons. For six grades (K-5th). Live and virtual. They are awesome!

At 2:00 students do either social studies or science and then at 2:30 they have "recess" and we have our grade-level meetings or planning time. At 3:15 we check back in with the Principal (today I learned how to access my student responses on Forms) and get any more news or updates. We would not have nearly as many meetings if we were in the building, but these meetings are our lifeline both in everything we are having to quickly learn and because adults need interaction too.

Two children sitting on the steps looking at their phones  

HC: What is the hardest part of online teaching?

KM: The hardest part of online school is hands down the technology. I'm on my fourth computer. My school computer was old and couldn't hold the wi-fi connection, even at school.  It's been acting up for about 6 months, but I'd just restart it. It finally died. I traded it in at the "drive-through teacher tech issue" line, which was at a local middle school. They switched it out no questions asked for a "new" computer (a student computer that had been re-purposed to a teacher computer just that morning). The technology people in the district have been super helpful, professional, patient and are really smart and I'm grateful for their help.

HC: What is one thing that has remained similar to school in person?

KM: One thing that has remained similar is the personality of the kids. You can see it in the chat bar. The kids that talk on the carpet in the gathering area or in the hallway on the way to lunch are still just as talkative and social - they just type it while you are teaching in the chat bar. After a while, the teacher who monitors the chat bar asks them to stop but social kids are social kids and they miss having people to talk to. I get it.

HC: What is one piece of advice you would give to your kids?

KM: One piece of advice... that's a hard one. Don't worry about grades. Everyone is doing their best - that's obvious. From the Superintendent to the Principal to the Teacher to the Parent to the Student (or in your case from the University President to the Professor to the Student)  don't worry so much about your grade. Just do the best you can with what resources you have. Teachers are going to be pretty lenient. And... document this time in your history somehow. A journal, blog, pictures, etc. You are making the history that future generations will learn about and read about someday.

HC: What is one thing you’re looking forward to when you can go back to school?

HC: What is one thing you’re looking forward to when you can go back to school?

KM: One thing I look forward to is the noise. It's so quiet in my virtual classroom because it's just me. I miss the playground noise and I guess even the cafeteria noise. I miss the celebrations too. We would have celebrated St. Patrick's Day and all worn green and celebrated the spring holiday this Friday (Passover/Easter) with some kind of spring fun activity. I miss Friday "Student of the Week" and Friday "Treasure Box" day. I think the thing I miss most is my whiteboard. It's so hard to teach math to a computer camera and a mini whiteboard!

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