Dragons Back in Class

Teachers share their joy and challenges in having students back on campus.

Interaction%3A+Ms.+Wilson+talks+with+Senior+Roberto+Concepcion+during+IB+Global+Politics.

Yanne Sijm

Interaction: Ms. Wilson talks with Senior Roberto Concepcion during IB Global Politics.

The one thing that teachers miss the most during online learning is interaction. Even though they could still talk to their students, “talking to an actual person versus talking to a screen is just not the same,” remarked Social Studies teacher Ms. Abigail Wilson.

“The campus without kids… it feels wrong,” said English teacher Mr. William Kimsey.

Still, teaching online was not without its merits. For instance, Ms. Wilson developed several technical skills, such as navigating various apps online and operating four different devices at once. This also required her to improve her organizational skills.

With students allowed to return to campus, teachers finally had the opportunity they had longed for: having students back in their classrooms, even though not all do come.

“Woo-hoo! I was like bouncing around [and] I clapped a little,” exclaimed Social Studies teacher Mr. Matthew Foster.

Many teachers share the same sentiment.

When they walked in, I was like, ‘yay students!’”

— Ms. Wilson

Due to the need to juggle attention for two student groups and manage new technology, some teachers initially expressed doubt about hybrid learning. But as Mr. Kimsey said, “there’s no way around doing hybrid.”

One of the more daunting challenges was balancing their attention between two different audiences in separate learning environments.

Mr. Foster admitted that he initially found himself talking more to the students in his classroom, mainly because they were in front of him. Many teachers felt the same way. Mr. Foster then devised a strategy: “Let’s give people value.”

“They’re in the room, and these kids are at home,” he said. “I need to give [both groups] an even part, [even though] that’s hard to do.”

Ms. Wilson and Mr. Kimsey also put a conscious effort into constantly checking in with their online students’ engagement and ensuring that they understood the lessons.

Nonetheless, teaching students in-person and online simultaneously can be exhausting to some teachers—especially with the reintroduction of 75-minute classes after a year and a half of 60 to 65-minute classes online.

In addition, there were several circumstances wherein digital devices did not work well for some teachers.

“It’s been a bit of a disaster,” Ms. Wilson said. “The class kind of laughed at me, and we’ve had to figure out something else.”

Despite these challenges that they faced, teachers unanimously agree that they are happy to have students back in their classrooms. They love having conversations with students, building relationships and hearing different voices and opinions.

“It was just so nice hearing students talking to each other—the laughter—and [feeling] that energy that students bring,” Ms. Wilson said.

Mr. Kimsey felt that being face-to-face with students in the classroom has made it easier for him to do several aspects of his job, like conversing with students and checking for their understanding.

With campus becoming more accessible to students, teachers look forward to a time when they do not have to open Zoom anymore, have more students with a range of emotions in their classrooms and develop relationships with them.

“That’s the best part about teaching,” Mr. Foster said. “Really, there’s nothing better. We don’t do it for anything else. It’s the positive interaction with human beings around you. It’s why I’ve stayed in teaching.”

In a way, hybrid learning gives teachers a chance to regain connection with their students, serving as a reminder as to why they chose to become teachers in the first place.