The daily cycle of teaching online

It was a moment of calm frustration for me this morning as I was explaining to my students what it’s like to teach through Zoom, to talk to a video of myself talking. I probably made some quip about how good looking I am but that it’s not enough to keep me engaged. I likely said something about my failed attempt at becoming a YouTuber and how this was my comeuppance. I hope that I said something about me missing seeing their faces. I wish I remembered more of what I said this afternoon to my students as I was explaining what some of my frustrations are with teaching online.

At some point during the day, I asked my students how they felt about the news that we’ll be online for another month. There were a few voices that were quick to say how glad they are and how much they enjoy online school. There were other, quieter voices that expressed a sense of disappointment, almost a longing. Nobody complained about the situation, many speculated that we’ll be online for much longer than a month. After the cacophony of pre-teen and only-just-teen voices died down, I explained my frustrations about online learning and told them that it’s difficult to talk to a video of myself talking. They were quiet while I spoke. I thought I’d share with my students how I felt about the news that we’ll be online for another month after asking them what they thought about it.

Throughout the day, I met with students individually to discuss how they’re handling the situation and what I can do to support them. This happened after we had a discussion about why so many of them were missing assignments. I explained that I need to report on their success over the course of the semester and their assignments are crucial to me being able to do that. I learned a lot as I listened to the students discuss with one another why there were so many missing assignments and what we need to do now. Nobody came up with a plan, they just went back-and-forth with one another about how they had sufficient time to complete the work but they just didn’t want to do it or had other commitments or found the work too difficult or forgot that things were due or didn’t have enough time to get it all done. After the class discussion, I had meetings with individual students to ask them what they have yet to complete and what I can do to support their success. I created several individual plans throughout the day to help students be successful in our current learning environment.

I relearned today that my students are experiencing stress. Some of them came right out and said it. Others simply acknowledged the sentiment expressed in our conversation with a simple, “same,” in the chat. Many of them were honest with me about their situation and what they are experiencing. I couldn’t fault any of them for being untruthful. As we were developing individualised plans to help alleviate some of their stressors, I could hear sighs of relief and the faint hints of a smile. Many of the students I spoke with individually couldn’t stop explaining themselves when I prompted them with, “Catch me up on how things are going.” It was as if they hadn’t been heard in a while, hadn’t had the chance to explain their situation, hadn’t had the opportunity to reflect on where they’re currently at and how they got there, hadn’t been asked to explain themselves. As I was listening to students think through their thoughts and reflect on what some of their needs are, I was reminded that they are experiencing stress.

I wish I remembered more of what I said to my students this morning when we were discussing how they felt about online learning being extended by another month. I’m sure that I said something about slowing things down and working with our new reality to make things more manageable. I probably told them that some of the responsibilities that they deferred to me while we were in class, are now on them, like staying on task during work periods and managing their time. I expressed some of my frustrations with online learning to them and they shared some of theirs with me. I learned a lot about my students this afternoon during discussions about how things are going with online learning.


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