One of the most underrated and under-appreciated jobs is that of a public school teacher. Even before the COVID-19 virus, it was common knowledge that a teacher never truly clocks out at the end of a day. Once they say goodbye to their students, they still have hours of work to do, from preparing future lessons to grading assignments and answering emails. In addition, there is pressure coming from school administrators and people with a finance-focused agenda that emphasizes the importance of exam preparation and how it will affect school budgets. On top of that, teachers are also required to interact with a spectrum of parents, from helpful to belligerent.
In addition to all of these factors, many teachers entered the world of remote teaching in 2020 at a sink or swim pace. Their overall ability to adapt to provide our children with the best possible education cannot be recognized enough. Most teachers embrace this career path because they genuinely want to positively impact our youth’s lives. However, the challenges they were already facing have become more challenging since, and many teachers are struggling to achieve their goals. In a face to face classroom, teachers know what to look for during a lesson and can easily walk over to engage students if they show signs of confusion or distraction. While this is exponentially harder in a remote learning environment, there is a solution for online teaching, albeit not as effective. The instructor can request to put the student in a private breakout room to provide support or offer encouragement. While this is happening, however, there is a much higher chance that the rest of the classroom will be tempted to become distracted since there is no accountability for their actions.
Another disconnect with remote teaching is the ability to let the students get to know one another. In-person, it’s a routine part of a course introduction to have students share facts about themselves and bond. Throughout the year, students often branch off into project groups and present jointly as a team. This is harder to do in a remote environment, but it can be done. The challenge is that this creates much more of an honor system because a teacher has to trust the groups to self-regulate and complete projects effectively.
Dr. Catherine Barnes is a Jacksonville, Florida-based educator with over 25 years of experience. A graduate of the University of Florida, Dr. Barnes forms her educational philosophy around the belief that “kids deserve a fighting chance—even if you have to fight to give it to them.” She understands that, by adapting to modern students’ needs, today’s teachers can change the trajectory of a child’s life, and has allowed her to continuously embody success and vision in her field.