Common Struggles Teachers Seem to be Facing During Online Learning

The start and maintenance of online classes have been a huge readjustment for us all. As a current junior, I'm stuck between disliking the new forced lecture style and enjoying not actually having to move in the morning/majority of the day. There are both good and bad things about having moved our education online, but for the most part, I feel that a large number of us agree that we would prefer things to return to normal. Sadly, it doesn't look like this will be an option for quite a while, and in the meantime, we will have to make do with what is safe and reliable. 

Prior to my moving back to Richmond, I was actually back home in NOVA and living with my family. As the college semester ended a bit early, my father, an eighth-grade science teacher, was finishing off his school year as I moved back in. He's been teaching for many years, and although it isn't the perfect job, he has always claimed to generally enjoy it. However, watching the sudden and forced change in teaching style and the accompanying struggles that came with it was a bit difficult to watch. Not only are teachers trying to keep up with everything going on like the rest of us (an example being the sudden and strange lack of toilet paper in-store), they are also responsible for pleasing students and parents while conveying graded material in a productive and useful manner. I would never have considered this easy when we were free to learn in person. However, moving to virtual interaction has created even more complicated struggles. Seeing my father swear at administration and whine through this process has been entertaining, but also made me realize that as easy as it is to complain about the current educational climate and embrace the mean parts that just want to complain, we should be trying our best not to forget that the person on the other side of the screen (whether their grading process is infuriating or not) is a human being as well and is probably also struggling with these new and irritating problems. 

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Obviously, I am not a teacher. However, I've heard several professors either complain about experiencing specific problems or watched them happen in real-time myself. The simplest and perhaps most infuriating problem I've found thus far is something that we can all, unfortunately, claim: WiFi problems. There's nothing worse than logging in to an online class with prepared work in hand (or in a teachers case, their lecture notes), talking to the class for several minutes, and then realizing with sudden and horrifying clarity that your WiFi has NOT in fact been connected for some unknown amount of time and the faces on the screen are and have been frozen for quite a while. Although no doubt frustrating from a student perspective, I'd say that the majority of us aren't too bothered when our answer to some academic question is interrupted. In fact, technology/microphone problems seem to have resulted in some very convenient excuses as to why no one knew the answer. However, I remember watching a teacher of mine freeze on-screen partially through an in-depth description of why caffeine can technically be classified as an addiction, only to come back several minutes later, somehow having gotten onto the topic of how her personal beer preferences weren't necessarily a bad thing. The resulting awkwardness when someone did eventually speak up and share that we had all been staring at her frozen screen for several minutes was displeasing for both the students and teacher. Thus, any WiFi strains have become incredibly irritating and increasingly relevant to us all. 

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Another thing I've noticed in my fairly limited class time is a lack of speaking or effort on the student's part. Although this issue is still present in person, it is especially hard to keep up with over a Zoom lecture. I cannot count the number of times where a teacher has asked a question only to be met with incredibly dead silence. When actually in the presence of a teacher, I feel it is easier for them to call someone out or provoke some level of discussion among the students, regardless of how many future dirty looks that will result in. However, over Zoom, this often seems to be an uncalculated risk, and more often than not, the question will hang in an extended and awkward limbo as everyone hopes someone else will step up to answer it. Writing this, I distinctly remember the disappointed but incredibly resigned expression that would cross my English professor's face every time this happened. This got to the point where it seemed to be their default look while on Zoom. I can only hope that as we adjust to these new class formats, people will become more comfortable speaking up for the sake of our successful education and my strong dislike of awkward silences. 

On a more serious note, I believe that if we can all work together, practice the correct safety procedures, and be kind to one another, this can really work. Education can continue to flourish and adapt regardless of the current circumstances, and we will eventually escape the problems caused by iffy internet and uncomfortably long stretches of quiet. No matter how irritating some Zoom lectures can be, I refuse to let this pandemic completely ruin my academic experience. College is far too enjoyable and far too expensive for that.