Features Magazine Volume 70, Issue 4

What Has It Been Like Teaching Students In 2020?

By Mateo Requejo-Tejada

Graphic by Jennifer Notman

Over the past six months, teachers have been forced to reflect on what it means to be an educator and learn how to conduct an engaging and informative class for students, all while a pandemic rages on in our country. If you ask any teacher why they got into the profession, most will tell you that it was because they saw an opportunity to positively impact a child’s life through education. However, COVID-19 has left many wondering what has happened to the student-teacher dynamic within education while our country has been ravaged by COVID-19 and how teachers have risen to the occasion.

At the beginning of this whole ordeal, teachers had to make the switch to online school and quickly adapt to the new challenges in teaching students. Ms. DaRe, a Las Lomas Spanish teacher, has become very familiar with constantly adapting: “There was a huge learning curve at the beginning.” She also commented on the difficulties of learning how to use Canvas as well as Zoom. DaRe detailed the difficulties in the learning process of these new tools, saying, “The first couple weekends I was working from sunup to sundown trying to figure out what things would work…and the functionality of Canvas.” Teachers were not alone, however; students have been very understanding with teachers and, in some instances, provided aid in correcting errors to help teachers run class in a smoother manner. Las Lomas history teacher, Mr. Speir, feels similarly: “My students have been incredibly patient and understanding. Sometimes students will help me by pointing out mistakes I’ve made on Canvas; for example, embedding the wrong link, etc.” DaRe also expressed gratitude towards the contributions of students, saying, “The students have sort of chosen as a group to be supportive and kind…which is very appreciated.” 

Although, this doesn’t mean student-teacher interactions have been without issue, as school has moved online and students now attend school from their rooms. Mr. Speir has been no stranger to resistance from students complying with the new manner of learning and said, “It frustrates me that students are so determined to avoid appearing on camera, and student reluctance to speak (either in front of the class or in breakout rooms) limits my instructional options, and, I fear, makes class less interesting.” One of the hardest challenges DaRe has struggled with is not being able to see students’ faces and learn more about them. DaRe reflected on how she would give students a warm welcome every day before the start of class and usually teach in a way that encouraged full participation and learning within the class through word games and other activities. Now, DaRe describes feeling ill-equipped and not fully competent as an educator to effectively teach students. She goes as far as to say this feeling initially made her feel like an imposter teaching students. DaRe explained her struggle with it all, saying, “I feel like I’ve given my students this year… 20% of what I could have given them in the classroom, and that makes me feel bad because it’s my job to interest them and excite them and engage them, and that’s been super hard for me this year.” Speir perfectly explained the struggle with online education and said: “Exerting this through a screen is really hard; something just gets lost in translation. It’s kind of like listening to an album vs. going to a concert. No matter how great the album is, there’s just a different vibe at the show itself.”