UCA Teachers on Online Learning

Teachers all around the country have faced difficult changes to their teaching methods and styles. I interviewed five of our own teachers here at Uwharrie Charter High School to get their opinions about online learning and how they teach now.

Empty Classroom
Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Ms. May, who has been teaching full time for 5 years, says that engagement and relationships are the challenges she faces when it comes to online learning. “Teaching online, we miss the engagement and feedback from students when we are in class. The other huge issue for me has been relationships. It is hard to build relationships with students virtually. You guys can’t get to know me in my element, and I can’t get to know you very well. That greatly impacts the quality of work that is done for my class,” she says. 

 

When asked if there was anything she wish she had known before UCA went online for the first time, she said, “Knowing how specific I needed to be would have been helpful. I say that meaning sometimes I “assume” that students know to do this or do that, and I have found I have to spell everything out almost step by step or mass confusion breaks out.” UCA students may know Mss May previously worked in the  healthcare industry.  May spoke of her previous experience in the industry stating,  “Healthcare is constantly changing and if you can’t learn to adapt you will get left behind.” To help her manage her courses, she writes tasks down on a notepad and her planner to stay on track when things are constantly changing. 

May added,  “I love teaching, and I wish students knew and believed that our goal is to help them be better when they leave us then when they started with us. We do not intend to make it hard or miserable by being in our class.”  She said she wants UCA students to know, “That teachers are working tirelessly to think of exciting ways to engage them, to make learning interesting, and to keep up with all of the changes, and that teachers truly care about students and about what they learn from us.”  May truly cares for her students evident by her statement,  “It hurts my heart to hear any student hates my class or that they are miserable in my class. That is not why I teach! I teach to make a change, I teach because I care, and I teach because I love it.”

Ms. Craven, an English teacher at UCA and a 13 year veteran, commented that technology can be a huge issue, and she normally can ask other teachers to help, but when we’re online, it’s not that easy. She went on to say that it is difficult to present information to students in an easy way that they will understand. “When in class, I present information, immediately check for understanding, clarify when necessary and continue on.  Last semester, I presented information through videos along with the assignment.  When students didn’t do as well on the assignments as I had hoped, I didn’t really know where the problem was.  I offered feedback hoping to help the student, but still was not always sure that it was enough.” Ms. Craven also commented that she misses seeing her students everyday of the week. “By spending time with students in class, I learn their personalities, their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses.  This seems almost impossible to do, when only seeing students online and still very difficult when seeing students in class two hours a week.”

Ms. Craven added,  “We will make it through this. I know that we all have days that we feel like we can’t continue to learn online, but we will make it.  We might not learn every single thing that we would have learned if we had been in a traditional classroom, but we are learning other things while we learn virtually.  Other skills are being learned that will also be valuable during our lifetimes, such as cooking, gardening, painting, trading stocks, child care, working on cars.  All of these skills are valuable too, and are just a few of the things that students are learning outside of their virtual classes.”

Students in Classroom
Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

Ms. Barfield,  a teacher for 21 years, says that keeping students motivated and hard working is very difficult online. “When a student is in a classroom every day, I am able to help them directly, help keep them motivated, redirect them when they get distracted, and constantly monitor them during the class period.  However, when a student is at home, it is up to the student to keep themselves motivated, and they will need to contact me for extra help via email, Remind, or a scheduled virtual meeting.  Students are not accustomed to this approach, and struggle with asking for help.” 

 

She commented that as she was a veteran teacher, she is constantly anticipating change. She also explained what she does to help with the uncertainty of schedule changes. “When I plan my semester — I always leave around 5 extra days of “flex” time to account for those interruptions! I use a simple excel document to plan my semester overview, and I consistently update that document when a “hiccup” occurs.”

Barfield added that she is curious to see how education will change after the pandemic. “I’m curious to see how education will change from this Pandemic. Will schools continue to provide a full-time online option when the Pandemic is officially declared over and life can return to normal at every grade level K-12? Will students go into College feeling better prepared for their online courses (some courses are only ever offered online!)?  It would be interesting to talk to students and teachers in about 5 years to see how the Pandemic ultimately changed the world of Education!”

All of our teachers have different struggles and different ways of teaching. Theywork very hard to understand the students and teach them in the best way they can.