In the month since we have started online learning, perhaps no one is struggling as much as some of Jordan’s teachers. I reached out to some of our instructors (Mr. Blackburn, Ms. Evans, and Mr. Poppe) to discuss their thoughts on online learning so far. The teachers expressed varying views navigating Canvas, and their likes and dislikes about being away from the school building.
One of the biggest issues teachers are having is not being in the same room as their students and sometimes not even seeing them at all. “It feels disheartening if I’m talking to a bunch of names and not faces,” says band teacher Patrick Blackburn. “Human connection is essential for education, and in so many ways it feels like that has been taken from us by COVID.”
English teacher Paul Poppe feels the same pain. “When we are reduced to Zoom, we are at the mercy of a student’s willingness to turn on their camera and communicate with us. So far, many of our pupils simply are unwilling to do so. That makes relationship building incredibly tough.”
While teachers strongly encourage and ask students to turn their cameras on, it is not a requirement. William Sudderth, the Chief Communications Officer for the district, states “DPS acknowledges that students are participating in remote learning while having different internet bandwidth and home learning spaces. We want to allow for flexibility where our students need it so they can engage in learning in a way that makes sense for them and their family.”
For teachers, engaging in virtual learning meant figuring out a whole new online platform: Canvas. “I spend my entire planning time trying to get stuff onto Canvas, and still feel like I am way behind,” says Mr. Blackburn. This being said, the veteran band teacher also believes that the administration and technology implementation team have been doing the best they can with everything, considering the circumstances.
Poppe had a smooth transition, because he started working to understand Canvas over the summer. He thinks that other teachers may not have had enough time to get the hang of Canvas, if they started their transition to online learning during the teacher workdays leading up to the first day of school.
Madison Evans, chemistry teacher of two years, also worked hard over the summer “I took it upon myself to watch videos, look at previously published courses from other teachers that taught my subject, and basically just clicked around to figure out what everything did with a prototype course until I found what worked best for me and what I thought would work best for students!” She also agrees with Mr. Blackburn, and the idea that everyone is doing their best in these trying times.
Though online learning has many downsides, it also has its advantages. “Being able to cook a good lunch every day has been absolutely amazing,” says Mr. Blackburn.
Mr. Poppe says he likes the schedule and that “I can make myself tea and coffee all the time. I can also use my own bathroom. There are a lot of perks.”
Each teacher adjusts to Canvas differently. Have grace for your teachers, and remember they’re going through a touch transition, too. Teachers check in on us every class– when was the last time you checked on your teachers?