The Deafening Silence of Teaching in 2020

The Deafening Silence of Teaching in 2020

I never imagined when I walked out of my classroom on that fateful March 13 day that I would never see my students again.

It was the final stretch of the year, their senior year. It was the final quarter when teachers start throwing hail marys and sprinting towards that finish line to summer. Then abruptly the game was over, finished well before the clock ran out.

As we moved learning online, I hoped just as much as my students that we’d get a chance to see one another again to get our goodbyes and a sense of closure.  As educators though we plastered a smile on our faces and rose to the occasion and found creative ways to connect and engage with our students.

At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, part of any teacher’s success they found in the remote learning experience was built on the foundation of the relationships they established with their students and families the previous six months of the 2019-2020 school year. When students could have easily avoided “attending” their remote learning, they signed on because they missed their teachers and their peers. They missed the connection of that relationship they built with their teachers and peers. Their teachers had hooked them and sold them on the value of their class before it ever went remotely. Those relationships were the lifeblood to any successes found in this remote learning experience.

But starting and building those relationships through a screen to start the 2020-2021 school year has been hard. As a teacher, I never imagined I’d miss the chatter of a class so much. Though I didn’t have six months to get to know this group of students like the seniors I never got to tell goodbye, the teacher in me just aches to stand in those halls, greet those kids at the door, laugh and chat with them about life and anything but school.

But the school sits empty; the halls echo in silence. There’s no chatter in the room or halls throughout the day. There’s no buzz in the air because it’s Homecoming week, a big game Friday night, or spirit days, contests, and activities for upcoming holidays, no plays or musicals or concerts to see prepping as you walk past classes or the auditorium. Teaching has become painfully quiet.

The silence of teaching in 2020 is deafening. The relationship building that has gotten both teachers and students through tough years is missing as it’s hard to build those relationships through a screen full of black boxes filled with student initials where they often respond through a chatbox.

Where we’ve once relied on reading their faces to know how they were doing not only academically but emotionally, we are now just left with blank screens of silence, with little to no idea of knowing how our students are truly doing during these isolating turbulent times.

Moving education online and continuing this path of remote learning may be a necessity, but there is limited relationship building in this type of learning, there is limited collaboration, there is limited growth for conflict resolution and interpersonal skills while there’s an increase in isolation and lack of development of social skills, as well as little room for movement and physical stimulation when you are schooling on the screen four to six hours a day. The building of community or unity in these types of settings will take years compared to the few weeks to a few months it takes in the classroom.

The relationship aspect of teaching feels endangered in the online teaching world. Teaching is hard, emotional work. Teaching online feels monotonous with little to look forward to as it doesn’t feel like we know our kids and there are no school events to get excited about and celebrate throughout the days. What has been a career of passion doesn’t have the same passion without the kids to connect to. We’ve become robotic behind a screen to serve mass amounts of students we just know as another avatar on the other side of the screen.

The relationships teachers build with their students and families is the heart of what makes an educational experience successful and meaningful for all involved and though it’s not impossible to build relationships with students in line, it’s just not the same.

Also Check Out:

The Deafening Silence of Teaching in 2020

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Angela Williams Glenn

Angela Williams Glenn is a seventeen year veteran English teacher. She is currently happily teaching English and Journalism in Baltimore, Maryland. She also writes about women's issues and family life for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Her View from Home, TAAVI Village, and Filter Free Parents. She hopes to one day write a book with her student writers about growing up in 21st Century America.

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