Those of us who are teaching remotely at my school are all talking about the challenge of engaging students, making eye contact and gauging student interest. There’s so much we don’t control right now.
There’s the problem of students turning off their cameras, which I think may be due to the self-consciousness of teenagers. It’s a social-emotional experience to let everyone into their private lives, their homes. They may feel self-conscious about overcrowded apartments or not having their own bedrooms. And turning off the camera, for whatever their reasons, gives them a sense of empowerment.
On the other hand, I find shyer students — the ones I wouldn’t ordinarily hear from in class — seem more comfortable with remote because they can type their messages and share their thoughts with me without the whole class being involved. That privacy seems to take away some of their anxiety. For those students, remote opens up more avenues to participate.
I see each of my students every other day for a double period, and I realize that it’s hard for them just looking at a screen. I try to be mindful of their stress load so I start our lessons with breathing meditation or asking a light question. If you could travel into space, what planet would you choose to live on? What are you watching on Netflix? It’s important to listen. Whether working independently or in groups, I try to give them as much time as possible to get their work done during class time. I’m aware of the stress of being in front of the computer for hours, so I’m probably giving them a lighter workload out of class.
With remote, everything has to be carefully planned and set up before class begins so I spend much more time on planning.
I would prefer to be back in class for those moments when you can catch lightning in a bottle, those teachable moments that arise spontaneously during class discussions and interaction.
— as told to reporter Dorothy Callaci