Laura Mitchell will never forget that Friday in March when, just before her students left for the weekend, she said, “Okay guys, I think we are going to be at school Monday, but we may not be.” They all quickly replied, “We don’t want to not come to school!” Little did any of them know how the next two months would look with learning from home during the COVID-19 quarantine. To get a taste of what an e-learning “classroom” looked like, we chatted with Laura just before the school year ended about the ups and downs of it all—certainly nothing like anything she’d seen in her previous eight years teaching at Edgewood.
Can you tell us about the personality of your class this year?
This class has been one of my favorites I have ever taught. They are incredibly social, competitive and fun-loving. Before quarantine we had just finished our Living Museum project where they dress up as a famous person they have researched, and it was fun seeing them shine. Earlier in the year we had Market Day where they create products and sell them to teach them basic economic principals. This year I made it my goal to eat lunch with my students at least once a week, and it was fun to get to know them on a social level and not just an academic level.
What do your days look like with e-learning in quarantine?
Every morning I start my day meeting virtually with one of my students. We meet for about an hour and work on math or reading, and then after that my days vary. Some days I meet with small groups of students to review concepts, and other days I work on planning, grading and making instructional videos. I have also done an all-girls and all-boys meets. It’s fun but chaotic. My students utilize the online learning platform Schoology to watch videos, create slideshows, write paragraphs and conduct experiments. Our goal was to do two hours and 20 minutes of school day for second graders.
What are some of the challenges of teaching this way?
There’s more on the computer that we would like, but it’s what we have to work with. There is no real-time feedback from the teacher, so they could do an assignment wrong versus getting corrected immediately. Aside from everything being on a technological device, the biggest challenge is being physically separated from my students. My favorite thing about teaching is working with children, and although I can see them virtually, I miss their hugs, conversations and fun stories from their weekends.
What have been some silver lining moments in this time?
I live right by the school, so I am super close to most of my students. I have been able to attend their birthday parties, and I see them riding bikes and playing outside. I have received flowers and artwork and notes on my porch. One of them even brought a pack of baseball cards for my son. I am doing our typical awards on Google Meet, and we are packing up all their stuff that was left behind that they will come pick it up next week. I might try to get my students together later this summer if it is allowed. I never imagined it would be this long.
What new appreciation has quarantine teaching given you?
Everybody realizes how great school can be—just being able to walk next door to a colleague’s room and ask her a question as opposed to FaceTime her. Every teacher has to do everything because we are not together whereas before we could help each other and lighten the workload.