Remote Learning Brought Me Closer to My Students and Allowed Me to Teach Again


Remote Learning Brought Me Closer to My Students and Allowed Me to Teach Again

I’ll never forget the Friday I waved goodbye to my students, with the intention of a break for a few weeks. News about the pandemic was stirring, but the quick break was a welcome one to ensure our safety. A “quick break” quickly turned into a discussion of “what are we going to do?” within each school system, state, and country. Before I had much of a chance to catch my breath, the words “distance learning” were the topic of every email, and every conversation.

I was bitter.

During March, the final semester of the entire school year, I was being forced to grasp the concept of distance learning, set up a home office, and somehow teach my students from my house. The idea was truly laughable.

As a relatively young teacher, I grumpily answered technology-related texts from more seasoned teachers, as I felt we were all unprepared and being thrown to the wolves. Now, the parents of our students would surely watch our every move from their homes and find something to criticize. “This is going to be like having an in-class observation every day,” I thought. Grab a chair and welcome to the train wreck of a show. I pictured internet connection and discipline issues—and there were some. I pictured feeling helpless behind a screen with little control—and I felt that way at times.

But I never could have pictured what actually happened during distance learning. I am happy to admit that overall, I was wrong.

What happened during distance learning is what teaching is all about—A teacher and her students, face-to-face, without all the extra “stuff”.

During our daily sessions, I was able to see (REALLY see) my students’ faces as they logged on to our GoogleMeet classes. I welcomed each one and complimented them on their shirt or their room décor or their pet sitting eagerly in the background. For the first time in a long time—teaching felt PERSONAL again. 

My first thought before I logged in was exactly how I would teach the lesson for that day when usually my first thought is to have my objectives on the board. I wasn’t worried about classroom control. If my students logged off or chose not to participate, it somehow wasn’t “my fault” anymore, and that became such a liberating feeling. 

In addition to it being personal, I also felt like less time was being wasted. I spent less time being disrupted by intercom calls, students checking in or checking out, sending work to in-school detention, filling out unnecessary paperwork. I had wished for SO LONG that teaching would go “back to the basics” and those in “power” would understand that teachers just wanted to TEACH—and now I finally feel like we are.

I can tell I’m not the only one reaping the benefits of online learning.

I am able to meet with students in small groups and ultimately provide more instructional time. I have witnessed shy students ask questions and rambunctious students hone in on the lesson because I’m not competing with a 7-hour school day and a limited attention span. I am able to provide shorter, more digestible bits of instruction in a work-at-your-own-pace style. This type of instruction doesn’t just meet the needs of the exceptional student, but can be reworked for every type of student—and I can SEE it working!

It turns out that I’ve been an adequate teacher all along.

Yes, I’ve been an adequate teacher all along, despite what test scores forced me to believe in the past. My students’ lightbulb moments I’ve had the chance to witness over the past few months have restored more confidence in me than any test-score-pizza-party ever could. 

We’re all in survival mode. We’re all just focusing on the “basics”. Teaching itself is finally “good enough” again without all the extras. Am I happy that there is a worldwide pandemic happening right now? Absolutely not. However, I can find good in this situation we’ve been thrown into in our own world of education. There’s been a huge shift of “what actually matters” and I can only hope we hold onto this knowledge as we navigate the future. 

What actually matters, you ask?

The students and their well-being. The teachers and their well-being. The learning. The social skills. The ability to adapt to change. 

Not the paperwork. Not the workshops. Not how our school looks on paper. Not the test scores. 

Let’s hold tight onto this newfound knowledge as we decide how our next school year will look.

Sincerely,

A teacher who found that distance learning brought her closer to her students and allowed her to finally teach again. 

Also Read:

Remote Learning Brought Me Closer to My Students and Allowed Me to Teach Again

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WhitneyBallard

Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, https://trainsandtantrums.blog/. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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