How student teachers are tackling virtual learning
Students and teachers alike were put under tremendous stress in these unprecedented times, but what is happening for those who fall into both categories?
As the effects of COVID-19 loom over the future school year, students and teachers alike have been put under tremendous stress in these unprecedented times. But what is happening for those who fall into both categories?
Dreaded 7 a.m. wake up calls are the new normal for senior university student Danielle Belarge, who has to be present and ready to get her students’ day started by 8 a.m. The seven-hour school days that most leave behind after high school are what Belarge must incorporate into her new school routine, on top of being a full-time college student.
As seniors majoring in education continue their year at the university, student-teaching that once occurred in schools all around the state remains online for the upcoming year. Seniors have been adjusting to not only online classes for themselves, but how to teach their students on a virtual level. Their lesson plans and classroom activities have turned into Zoom calls and breakout rooms.
Belarge, whose major concentration is in English as a second language, noted that she only spent one week of the usual five-week student teaching program actually in a classroom.
“That definitely made me skeptical about jumping into student teaching this semester,” Belarge said.
However, she said she believes that the education department at the university, as well as her clinical educator, gave her resources that will help her succeed in her classroom.
“I have learned so much more about technology and software programs to utilize in my future classroom,” Belarge said. “My clinical educator, the teacher I work under, has been super helpful when it comes to introducing me to technology she uses and getting me access to that, so I can incorporate it into the lessons I teach.”
Similarly, fellow senior education major, Kate Healy, feels similarly to Belarge. Her cooperative teacher, or clinical educator, introduced her to programs like Jamboard, Quizizz and Desmos, applications helpful for those in the teaching field. She said she believes that if she wasn’t in this placement, she would never have learned this much information about technology.
Both students said that despite these steps forward, they struggle to connect with their students.
Belarge explained that she has a hard time knowing when students are confused with the lesson or if they are dealing with distractions at home.
“It has opened my eyes to my student’s realities at home that may not be brought to life if I had never experienced using Zoom to teach them,” Belarge said.
Healy understands and relates to the same issues.
“There are some students in my class that have only shown up on Zoom a total of three times since school started,” Healy said. “I worry they aren’t getting the support at home or don’t have the resources to succeed virtually.”
However, both Belarge and Healy noticed a spike in their passion for teaching as these unusual times continue.
Belarge said that as a student, her time management has increased dramatically, preparing her for student teaching as well as life in general. Due to the lack of interaction that happens in virtual learning, she began using new strategies in her lessons to see student’s reactions.
“The times where students are actively engaged and thoroughly themselves has definitely been rewarding and has solidified this passion of mine,” Belarge said.
Healy believes that this is the time for her to become the best teacher possible. She finds herself creating fun projects for her students and telling jokes before class to help them adjust.
“In times like these, young adolescents need passionate teachers who will do all they can to engage them through their Chromebooks,” Healy said. “Not only do they need teachers to teach them, but to support them at this time as well, and I’m honored that I can be that support for them.”