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Classrooms during COVID

Xue Qing Liang, chemistry teacher, New Utrecht HS, Brooklyn

New York Teacher

I’m in my fifth year of teaching and, until the most recent shutdown of city schools on Nov. 19, I was teaching both in-person and remote together. Students who came in sit with me in the classroom and those at home joined at the same time on Zoom. I teach five classes a day.

Technology presented the biggest problems because I use multiple devices. I have two screens in front of me. I also had to buy a writing pad so I could write work to be projected onto both the computer and smartboard to accommodate the remote students. I had to buy AirPods to speak because the smartboard doesn’t have a microphone. I also had to buy a VGA (video graphics array) adapter. There were countless issues you didn’t find out about until you were actually doing it, and we need to solve all these issues on our own.

At first the students doing remote were keeping their cameras off, so I was just looking at a screen with all black squares. It was like I was talking to myself. But we have gotten the students to turn on their cameras and that problem was solved.

One of the biggest problems about teaching remotely is the difficulty monitoring students’ progress. When you are in person, it’s easier to tell if students understand the content. Remotely, you can’t precisely evaluate whether they understand the material or not.

But think about this: Each student probably has eight classes, each lasting 40 minutes, so they’re looking at a screen for 320 minutes a day. That’s hard! Sometimes students forget to mute themselves and you can hear what’s going on in the background. With family members home, it’s easy to become distracted.

We still have chemistry labs but they are now all online simulations. Students don’t have chemicals and equipment at home, and we cannot expect them to buy or prepare materials. The students can’t be as hands-on as they would be if they were doing lab experiments in the classroom.

as told to editor Joe LoVerde

Xue Qing Liang, chemistry teacher

Classrooms during COVID

To make the school year feel successful, educators are revising lesson plans, troubleshooting technology and investigating new strategies. Day by day, they’re figuring out what works for their students — and themselves. Read their stories.

Related Topics: Coronavirus, Pedagogy