Photo credit: “Monitoring of school teaching online from above.” by shixart1985 is licensed with CC BY 2.0
It’s a trying, frustrating time for us all. COVID-19 has hit the United States hard. Doctors, nurses, teachers and essential workers have faced the pressure of going back to work during a pandemic. However, some people did not have the luxury of going back to work due to layoffs and unemployment. In fact, the unemployment rate has risen to 13.7% in Pennsylvania according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically, teachers have had to adjust tremendously as the number of COVID-19 cases drop and schools start to open for synchronous learning online.
Schools in Pennsylvania have started with asynchronous learning which brought on its own set of challenges. The teachers I have spoken with around Delaware and Chester County have unanimously agreed that this type of teaching hindered them from tracking performance, testing accurately and connecting with their students. A teacher in the Delaware County School District said, “I am glad we are moving on to synchronous learning because at least we can see and interact with the students to track their learning.” Now, after starting my own student teaching experience, I see that there are still hurdles to overcome with synchronous learning online.
Synchronous teaching in Delaware County has been implemented, and many teachers and student teachers are struggling to adjust. Additionally, schools have started new reading and math curriculums, which only adds to the stress on teachers to adapt to everything coming their way. The district has been providing meetings for technology and curriculum. Nonetheless, parents and teachers have been struggling with communication, materials and technology. My mentor teacher in the Delaware County School District commented, “I feel like a new teacher. This is going to be a challenge especially with classroom management online. The thing is, we have to be adaptable and persevere through this weird time; helping each other out until hopefully students can come into school.”
Many more teachers have expressed their frustrations with the technology and lack of materials in planning lessons at the moment. One teacher explained: “It’s also a challenge because students in daycare or at home feel like they are not at school. They get distracted, and it’s harder to manage them all as we teach.” The curriculum is also new to many of them, so it will be an interesting learning curve for them and the students, too.
As for student teaching, placements all over the county in Pennsylvania have been highly inconsistent and student teachers have had to either work from home or come into schools to help out. Our role has been limited due to the slow nature of the curriculum being incorporated. However, we still face similar challenges to our mentor teachers. We are trying to learn how to teach online for the first time and also learn from our mentors. A fellow student teacher in the same placement as mine mentioned: “I feel like we could have at least been shown these different websites so we had an idea of what was currently being used in schools. It’s surprising to me how many of the teachers are not technologically savvy. Many of them are feeling overwhelmed. They want to help the parents and students understand, but they also don’t want to overwhelm them with information. Teachers understand that this is a difficult time for everyone; they appreciate good communication with parents. Teachers all feel like they are first year teachers again. It’s surprising and upsetting to me how quickly people went from saying that teachers deserve millions of dollars for what they do, to now people saying teachers are lazy and selfish. People need to understand the hard work, dedication and effort teachers are putting in all the time and especially during this time.” Additionally, student teachers are trying to grapple with technology issues that have been occurring with the two major online meeting platforms, Google Meets and Zoom.
People need to understand the hard work, dedication and effort teachers are putting in all the time and especially during this time.
This has been a new experience for parents and guardians, too. They have been supportive and accommodating to their students’ needs in this time for the most part; however, they sometimes struggle with the technology and communicating with the teachers, especially parents of students who are English language learners or new to the school district. We try to work with them as best as we can, yet communicating with aides and special education teachers has been difficult, since even they are struggling with how to help students during this time. After all this, there is still hope that teachers, student teachers, students and parents will continue to learn and persevere through this uncertain year as they always do — hopefully with the continued aid of their districts.
Sara Mahgoub is a senior majoring in early grades preparation and minoring in journalism. SM863178@wcupa.edu