Adapting to the abnormal: teacher expectations and COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused students and teachers to face a myriad of challenges this school year, with many educators adjusting their expectations for students as a result.

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Image from Pixabay used with permission.

Online learning has resulted in added stress for both students and teachers.

While some students are trying to figure out how to manage their time while completing school fully online, many forget that their teachers are learning along with them. Due to the change in environment and COVID-19, teachers and students are learning together, and there are bound to be a few bumps in the road. While teachers are striving to make online school feel like in-person, there are inevitable changes that need to be made.

Megan Bildner, a chemistry teacher who is new to West this year, is experiencing the challenges that come with adapting to online school.

“Adjustments are happening every single day,” she said. “Whether it’s the pacing of the course, Canvas, the number or types of assignments, the tools, you name it, it has probably been adjusted.”

An extra level of difficulty is placed on Bildner because of the subject she teaches. Chemistry, and most sciences, rely heavily on in-person labs and discussions, two things that are especially challenging to do online.

Adjustments are happening every single day. Whether it’s the pacing of the course, Canvas, the number or types of assignments, the tools, you name it, it has probably been adjusted.”

— Megan Bildner

The main change is that we can’t do the hands-on labs that we would normally do,” she said. “We do have new online lab software that is very cool though. PIVOT labs still allow students to design experiments, make observations, manipulate and analyze their data and draw conclusions, all of the main features of our typical lab experiences.”

PIVOT and other online software such as Flipgrid allow for teachers to give their students as close to an in-person experience as possible. However, some classes that depend on in-person discussion and collaboration are struggling to find an alternative. 

Nathan Frese, an English teacher at West, is teaching both online and hybrid courses this year. 

“I like to use small groups and elbow partners and gallery walks and group Flipgrids and other sorts of collaborative learning — that is just really difficult to replicate online,” he said.

Frese and Bildner both agree that one of the biggest challenges is connecting with their students through computer screens. 

“For me, the hardest part is missing out on truly getting to know my students as individuals,” Bildner said. “While there are many types of interactions we can have online, those quick, organic day-to-day check-ins and random conversations in between classes are so enjoyable. I feel that those moments bring a sense of camaraderie between myself and students & between peers too. I miss that.”

For me, the hardest part is missing out on truly getting to know my students as individuals”

— Megan Bildner

Internet issues are a constant obstacle for students and teachers alike and are yet another change to this school year. Whether it’s a bad connection, glitches or even just miscommunication, they add another level of difficulty and stress.

“I have to be more mindful of connectivity issues and their home environment in terms of concentration and focus.” Frese said, “I basically accept any assignment at any time for full credit during this first trimester.”

As the school year continues, and students near second trimester, things are bound to run smoother. However, it’s important to be mindful and understand that remote learning is new for everyone. 

“Teaching online is exhausting for teachers and students alike,” Frese said.