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Ever since schools around the nation have shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, they have had to adjust to a new method of educating their students — online teaching. Online teaching utilizes services such as Zoom and Google Meet to provide a lecture that is held on the internet. Some teachers have also opted to record their lessons consisting of powerpoints or use videos to teach their students. In addition, online learning websites such as Khan Academy have been used to substitute the absence of the usual in-school lessons. How well are teachers and students faring with the new system?
Andrea Short, an English teacher that teaches 10th and 11th grade in Eleanor Roosevelt High School, believes there are some good things about online teaching. “One pro is the freedom for students to work on their own time and at their own pace. Also, in some ways, there aren’t as many distractions. Students who enjoy plugging in their headphones and working alone seem to be excelling.”
Qi Guo — a math teacher who teaches 10th and 11th grade in Woodrow Wilson High School(DC) — held similar attitudes towards online teaching, stating that “the learning schedule is more flexible.” Ms.Guo also believed that online teaching had the advantage of “saving transportation time.”
As a student, I believe that online teaching is extremely beneficial to students because they are able to control when they want to sleep and when they want to wake up. A 2006 survey from the National Sleep Foundation found that 87% of high schoolers are sleep deprived. Online teaching has solved that problem for me.
Although online teaching has its benefits, both Ms.Short and Ms.Guo have found that it doesn’t come without its own set of problems.
Ms.Short believes the interactions online teaching is not the “same” and is “challenging” as she is not able to get a “feel for how students are doing.” She also states that some kids are not willing to participate in the new setting. “Some students are very engaged and respond often to emails, but that’s not the case for all students.”
Ms.Guo also found that “the interaction between students and teachers is not as good” and “some students take advantage of the system to avoid doing work.” Ms.Guo also found that the policies around online teaching are extremely generous making it impossible to “assess students effectively.”
The pitfalls of online teaching for me is that if I have a question, it can be hard to get a clear answer as I feel that in-person explanations are generally more helpful. Also, online teaching has made socialization — an important aspect of school that many people overlook — much harder.
Ms.Short believes that there are simply too many “disadvantages” that online teaching holds that prevent students from really learning. She cites that many of her “students are still working during this time to support themselves and their families, and they’ve actually picked up more hours now that they’re at home, which means they don’t have as much time for school work.” Ms.Short believes that the problems are inevitable as they are “beyond our control.”
Ms.Guo had a more optimistic look on online teaching, believing it could be improved if she was allowed to “assess students online.” She feels that “if you don’t assess students, they are not motivated to study.”
I am ambivalent about whether or not the online system of teaching can be improved. I agree with Ms.Short that there are simply too many “factors” that are out of teachers’ control. On the other hand, I do think online tests should be implemented to make online teaching more rigorous. I’ve heard from many of my friends that they have been slacking off and doing the bare minimum without the fear of failing as the school’s policy makes it almost impossible. With tests, students will have to actually learn from their online lessons, making their grades more meaningful.
When asked about whether or not the new system is more stressful, Ms.Short expressed that she is “definitely more stressful.” She found that “recording videos has been more time consuming” and “organizing Google classroom assignments is actually more time consuming than some may think.” Ms.Short also has been “very intentional about separating my work life and my home life” and has found that the pandemic has “blended together” the two, making her life “difficult to navigate.”
Ms.Guo felt relatively “less stress because student expectations are not as high.” Ms.Guo added that “I have already taught the necessary topics to my students for the AP test. Right now I’m mostly doing reviewing, which is easier than teaching.”
For me, stress has varied for different aspects of the change. Because I want to do good on my AP tests, I want to get instant feedback for my work. The fact that I can not do this and have to rely mostly on myself has been a stressful change. On the other hand, the courses I’ve taken have truncated and this has resulted in fewer topics being covered on the AP tests. Generally speaking, the last units are the hardest and the fact that I do not have to learn it is a bit easing.
Regardless of how we feel about online teaching, I think it’s safe to say that it has been a unique experience that both teachers and students alike have gained from.