By Zachary Kersh
In an education system that is mainly directed towards the benefits of students, in times where everyone is affected, the other members of the education of the education system are often overlooked. With the major schooling changes that have occurred as a result of Covid-19, teachers are having a difficult time changing the way they have been working for their entire careers.
School changing to online has dramatically altered the worklife of teachers. The online approach to schooling has forced all teachers to learn how to operate a virtual world. Mr. Bohlayer, a member of Glenelg’s math department, explains, “Online teaching itself can also be a lot more time-consuming in terms of hours of preparation, and all of the information and tertiary tasks that get piled onto teachers can be a little overwhelming at times.” All of the behind the scenes work that teachers have been putting into perfecting teaching online has been a lot for teachers. Not only has it been different work than usual, but it has also been more in terms of time. Thankfully, Bohlayer follows, “I think I'm getting into a bit of a groove finally, and kind of enjoying my little basement classroom that I set up this past summer.” As teachers figure out what works and what doesn’t, they are becoming more comfortable teaching in this foreign way. Mrs. Hirsch, a counselor and member of Glenelg’s student services department, expresses, “Utilizing google folders and forms has been a learning curve for me, however, it has made things more efficient.” In times that can easily be viewed pessimistically, it’s important to realize the benefits that arise as well.
Teachers are also trying their best to keep students engaged in an environment where it is extremely easy to remain disconnected. Mr. Schaffer, a member of Glenelg’s physical and health education department, explains, “We’ve had to change just about everything we do on a daily basis. We always try to make our class movement based and fun for students, but it can be difficult at times since we’re not all in person.” The online learning experience is different for all students, but for many, directing focus onto an online class can be difficult with seemingly endless distractions. As a result, teachers have tried and tested ways to engage an online audience. For many teachers, this involves icebreaker activities. Icebreakers are activities whose purposes are to help members of a group get to know each other. This is important in a school environment, and even more in an online school environment, because it helps everyone become more comfortable in a new class. In an online class, it means more engagement and participation. Glenelg senior Andrew Johnson expresses, “Icebreakers definitely helped to reduce how awkward it was for a new class to be online.” Among the many things teachers have tried to apply in order to ease the transition to online school, icebreakers seem to be working effectively.
A large part as to why the difference in schooling is difficult for teachers is the absence of in person interactions. Schaffer, who teaches strength and conditioning classes, states, “The most difficult part of virtual learning for me has been the inability to be with my kids at school. I miss seeing my students every day. I miss the conservations and seeing them improve in person.” For teachers, the bigger picture of school is one that heavily incorporates students. Teachers not only miss interacting with students throughout the year, but little things as well. Bohlayer explains, “I miss having great conversations with students, high fives in the hallways, and getting to catch up with former students more than anything right now.” Online and regular school are simply not comparable in terms of building genuine relationships with teachers. Hirsch relates, “I entered school counseling because I enjoy working with students and helping them to navigate their teen years. Whether it be good times or bad, I like the process of talking and being present with individuals to help them to find their way. This is most difficult in the virtual world.” Evidently, the absence of student interaction from their day to day lives has been difficult for teachers.
Despite there being many downsides to online schooling, there are things to look forward to as well. Every day that goes on, is another day we get closer to being back in a more natural school setting. Hirsch offers, “I know I used to hear students saying, ‘I can't wait to get out of here.’ Now I hear students and staff saying, ‘I can't wait to get back to school!’” Despite the stressful changes that the major schooling changes have brought on, as we have before, teachers and students will tackle the barriers put in front of us, and normal school will return soon!