Teaching During A Pandemic, What Local Teachers Want You To Know

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Local Area Teachers Share Challenges Teaching During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many challenges. Our world has, for lack of a better expression, been turned upside down in a variety of ways.

Still, folks battle to maintain as much “normalcy” as possible.

Nowhere is the topsy-turvy world of the Coronavirus more evident than in our school systems. And the heroes of these scenarios are teachers.

Teachers are a lifeblood to students. They help mold them into what they will be as adults, perhaps even teachers themselves someday.

The Coronavirus has changed the landscape dramatically. Nowadays, teachers and their students find themselves something akin to yoyos in a yoyo competition, going from one end of the string (the classroom) to the other (remote learning).

And through it all, they continue to put their students first. Whether it’s staying up late and working weekends to figure out just the right learning schedule and lessons, or even spending money out of their own pockets to get the supplies necessary to instill the best education possible in their students, teachers are always there when it matters most.

And now, whether it’s in-person or on a computer/tablet, or even a phone screen, they continue to be there during this deadly pandemic, doing what they do best – teaching.

Several area teachers gave their thoughts to Focus Daily News recently on instructing during the pandemic:

Annette Valenzuela, art, Duncanville High School – “The part I struggle with the most is that I don’t get to spend quality time with my kids. Most students online don’t show their faces, and the ones who are here at school are so quiet and on their phones that I feel like I don’t have the connection that I’ve had in the past. I’ve been here at DHS for 15 years and I’ve never been this lonely.

“I teach art and one of the biggest challenges that we have is being able to demonstrate art lessons with the technology that is available to us.

“More patience and grace is what I think would make things easier. I’ve heard several times that ‘We are building the plane while we are flying it.’ Every day seems to be a new challenge.

“I’m the National Art Honor Society sponsor at DHS, and we were able to do a joint community service project at Laurenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation in Duncanville with our Student Council. I was so happy to see that my kids from last year are still willing to participate in NAHS this year. We plan to work on a mural at Daniel Intermediate after Thanksgiving.”

Missing That Personal Relationship, Connection With Students

Wendy Shephard-Tuten, culinary arts, Duncanville High School – “One of the biggest challenges for me is not getting to establish a personal relationship with my students who are virtual. Personalities can only be shown so much through a computer screen.

“Spending so much time with students over the years, we get to know them, get to know their families, which students need more guidance and which may work well independently. As teachers, we miss the bonds we establish with those who we do not get to see each day. That emotional bond is hard to make with those who are online. It’s a bond that is important for the students as well. The relationships students form with teachers are sometimes the most consistent, stable adults in their lives. The pendulum swings both ways, we need our students and they need us too.”

Students and parents who communicate with their teachers tend to do better with virtual learning than those who don’t. When struggling, we as teachers can’t be of assistance unless we know what the student’s struggles are. Covid has brought about an array of struggles for families.

“One silver lining to this hybrid model of education is smaller class sizes. This leads to more individualized attention for our students.

Challenge: Two Totally Different Lesson Plans

Taffiney Simmons, sixth-grade math, Red Oak Middle School/Sixth-Grade Center – “It’s challenging to balance a mixture of online and in-person because it requires two different types of teaching and different modalities of learning. It’s like I have to prepare two totally different lesson plans and delivery methods for each day.

“Parents and students need to know that the teachers want to partner with them to be successful, but we need to talk about student expectations and parental needs as well as provide access to resources. Communication is definitely a two-way street.”

Donna Little, fourth-grade math, Wooden Elementary, Red Oak – “Being a virtual and in-person teacher has had challenges, but this far into the semester, our virtual learners have come a long way. After some initial practice, they have learned how to take better pictures of their work and attach properly for their teachers to grade.”

“Assignments posted in Google Classroom, our elementary learning management system, are clear and precise. Often, we remind students to read the directions completely and submit assignments when due. School at home has the same requirements as at school – log into Google Classroom, get help if you need it during teacher office hours, and strive to do your best.”

Adapting Is a Necessity

Ryan Ayala, seventh-grade math, Jerry Knight STEM Academy, Mansfield – “It was a struggle in the beginning since we were doing both virtual and in-person at the same time. Normally, we only have one audience, and everyone is in the same building or classroom. Now, our learners are spread out. In order to ensure they are engaged, we have to really capture their attention. We’ve had to adapt everything we do to this new reality. However, any good teacher would tell you the ability to adapt and teach on the fly is a necessity.

“I want parents and students to know that I understand the struggle and frustrations that this year has presented. However, I truly believe this provides us an opportunity to better our education system as a whole. We are having those deep conversations addressing the issue of what the next step for education will be and how we can improve our system and make it equitable for all stakeholders.

“The most important thing that parents can do is to bring concerns or issues to their child’s teacher. Feel free to reach out and talk to the teacher—to form the most important partnership in their child’s education.”

Virtual Education Is a Lot Of Work For Young Children

David Vaughn, STEAM facilitator, K-5 theater specialist, Grand Prairie Rayburn Elementary STEAM Academy – “The students are one of the main things that keep me grounded. I enjoy their company both in person and virtual. It is tough to cope with having both at the same time, but with trial and error, we have grown to where it is manageable, engaging, and fun.”

Miranda Jewett, third-grade, Grand Prairie Rayburn Elementary STEAM Academy – “As a teacher, working with both in-person students and virtual students simultaneously, I want parents to know that a virtual education is a lot of work for a young child. Students will not be able to maintain the responsibility and rigorous focus needed for growth without the daily support of an adult by their side.

“If you are committing your child to a virtual education, set some boundaries that will allow your child to be engaged and focused on their daily lessons. Teachers are working overtime to make sure your child is getting the highest quality of education daily. Your hard work and focus to keep them engaged in their digital lessons will pay off, and every child can grow with a full team of support.”

Annabel Vacca, kindergarten, Grand Prairie Sam Rayburn Elementary STEAM Academy – “When students are in the classroom, we can create engaging environments for them. A struggle is having an engaging virtual environment. What does that look like?”

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