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Teaching and Learning Under Quarantine

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of UTW or it's affiliates.

By Teralyn Cohn, Southeast High School

Teachers, students, parents and administrators are trying to come to terms with our new perspective of SCHOOL during the spring of 2020. This roller coaster of learning and teaching helps us develop perseverance, technology skills and the understanding of GRACE. 

Classrooms and desks have been replaced with sofas, dining room tables, and spots where we can find some quiet. Gone are the textbooks, pencils and paper; hello computers, cell phones, headphones and Google Classroom!

During the past seven days I have been submerged in the world of a student with all of the Microsoft Teams training. Just when you think you understand how a resource works, all of a sudden it is not allowed! I’m not sure if our students have faced this in our classrooms. This type of teaching is new to most of us and we are all in that limbo area where we know the content and assessment tools, but the delivery method is scary and we can’t see the student’s facial reactions to indicate they are confused. It’s hard to form a parallel to that in our teacher student world unless it’s being moved to the class of that mean teacher who never smiles.

On top of that, just when we become comfortable with the technology and delivery and excited about our adventure, we are hit with the realization that not all of our students have daily access to technology, or they are sharing the one computer and internet connection with 3-4 siblings. Frustration develops perseverance, which can lead to solutions. The thrill subsides and apprehension about the next loopty loop approaches. How do I reach those students?

The positives? I have a new appreciation for students who struggle with information overload. It convinced me to scrap half of my ideas and encourage my students to be selective in what assignments they complete to improve their grade. I am not requiring ALL assignments for completion, I have targeted each assignment towards a similar task from 3rd nine weeks and will adjust the grade accordingly. This is the safety bar so we all reach the end of the ride.

Positive #2 is I have found a new enthusiasm for working with my colleagues. We are already using Microsoft Teams and are sharing ideas and resources to help our students daily. It’s like a PD/Department meeting that allows us to collaborate! Some days are so exciting it’s hard to catch my breath!

Positive #3 is I am further developing relationships with my students. We are collaborating on individual education plans based on what they need to be successful. I am using email, Google Classroom, Zoom/Microsoft Team Meetings, texting and Remind to connect and communicate with my students. These are the twists and turns that keep me alert and looking ahead. 

The downside? I’m actually working more hours because I’m training AND teaching AND grading AND trying to contact those students I haven’t heard from. While I am saving on fuel expenses, I still feel stressed and overloaded. That is the sudden drop near the end of the ride.

At the beginning of this situation, I thought it wouldn’t be much different from the classroom setting since I already incorporated Google Classroom. How wrong I was! Weekends are now sacred - no meetings, no email, no technology! I’m getting outside to work in the yard, play with my dogs, and reconnect with my spouse. Balance and Grace for your students, your colleagues, and yourself will keep you from going off the rails!

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