The Sound of Learning - Teaching During the Pandemic

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The Sound of Learning - Teaching During the Pandemic

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On March 12th, 2020, all of the teachers and support staff in the high school where I work in Stafford, Virginia (A suburb of Washington DC) were called down to the auditorium and told by the head principal that our school would be shut down for the next two weeks as a result of Covid-19. Long story short, I did not return into that building until January of 2021. Even though I did not enter the building, between September and December of 2020, I toiled away teaching virtually via Google Meet from my basement.

Teaching online was difficult - due to privacy concerns, students were not required to turn their cameras on - and none did. For the first time, I was teaching to a class of thirty without seeing anyone other than myself. Many students did not want to ask questions by unmuting their microphones, so instead they would type out questions, make comments, tell jokes, etc through the chat feature. Each time a student would send a message, my computer would make a small beeping noise. I learned to love this noise as it was the only reminder I had that there was someone listening to me. As a teacher, forming relationships is so central to the profession. At first, it seemed impossible to be a meaningful teacher when I had no clue what my students even looked like. But every time I heard that beep, I was delighted to know that someone was on the other side of that screen. Without the fear of immediate judgement of their peers, many of my students provided commentary on the lesson and made teaching fun. When teaching in person, I hate when a student tries to talk over me, so only dealing with a tiny beep was much more manageable and it was nice to see these kids communicate with one another while separated by the pandemic.

Many articles that I have read have been incredibly critical of online learning, and some with good cause. I did not reach every student. Some fell back asleep, logged in then walked away, played video games, and even one of my students admitted to me that he was taking his dog on a walk during class. But hearing that beep reminded me that there are students out there that can make connections even when it seems impossible.

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This item was submitted on June 29, 2021 by Colin Berkley using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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