With more people getting vaccinated every day, it seems that by the next school year, Kaiser will be safely returning to in-person learning. Many students are excited to return to school, while others wish they could do virtual learning forever. But what about the teachers?
Most teachers hold synchronous classes. Elizabeth Ben, who teaches six different subjects, feels “it would be easier if I taught live and not have to worry about making my lessons ‘perfect,’” she said. One of her worries in recording lessons is that if she makes a mistake, then her students would make memes out of her recordings. Some teachers have utilized the asynchronous option to give their students freedom. However, this method has its drawbacks. “I feel disconnected,” Reinhardt Lai Hipp said. “I think students feel the same.” He believes that virtual learning has made it harder for his students to stay focused and motivated for school. Dallas Uti agreed, saying that the biggest problem in her classes was student engagement. “Usually, my classroom is filled with conversation and student voice[s], but this year, not so much,” she said.
Most teachers initially struggled to adjust to virtual learning, “learning how to use WebEx and converting all of my lessons to electronic versions,” Ben said. This was a common problem for teachers, who “had to learn a bunch of stuff…[like] communicating through email, chats, and messages,” Lai Hipp said. Eventually, they managed to pick up new skills and adapt to new methods. “Virtual learning has encouraged me to make all assignments accessible digitally,” Uti said, although she also has to make sure that her directions are very clear when she gives out work.
Opinions on the effectiveness of virtual learning vary. Ben believes that online school depends on the student, as “some thrive while others struggle,” she said. Others regard it as simply less effective. “In-person learning results in much more insightful conversations [and] student engagement,” Uti said. “And well, it’s just more fun!” Lai Hipp agreed: “Online stuff is good to have to enhance your curriculum, but not for the entire curriculum the way it is now,” he said. “I think in-person is better. But to keep everyone safe, this alternative learning method is alright.”
Virtual learning wasn’t all bad. Ben said that there were “little to no disruptions in online sessions,” she said. She also enjoyed “Wednesday tutoring sessions to help students or grade” and “working from home in the first quarter [to] save money on gas,” she said. Uti feels virtual learning “really has pushed students to be more independent in their classes…and take initiative if they do not understand,” she said. Even homework seems to have benefitted, as “a lot of my students turn in their work to google classroom,” Lai Hipp said.
It’s always important to keep a positive mindset even when the situation is not ideal, and that’s exactly what these teachers have been doing.