Online School: How are Teachers Adjusting?


This year the role of a teacher has been transformed. Teachers gained responsibilities, such as hosting Zooms, creating more slideshows to screen share, and navigating new technology, while still learning how to juggle all of their traditional responsibilities in a nontraditional setting.

Though the concerns of how students are handling the transition to online learning are valid, time needs to be taken to check in on our teachers. 

“I feel like a first-year teacher again and this is year 29,” history teacher Ms. Andrea Maines said.

An added aspect to teacher’s jobs this year is figuring out how to use new platforms as well as how to teach on them. Teachers across the school are struggling to find the happy middle between a brand new lesson plan and their in-person curriculum, especially with the impersonal vibe that comes with online learning. 

“I end up having to be more visual than verbal,” Mr. Lonnie Mitchell said. “In the past, I relied more on teaching verbally but when you’re dealing with online, I have to work on the board a lot more. I have to make sure students really understand what I’m talking about.” 

The atmosphere created by teachers in their class is exclusive to that teacher. Each classroom has a unique difference that teachers are proud of but are worried about losing in their online classroom. 

“I am a personality teacher, and if you’re in my classroom that’s totally fine, but online I have to teach more skills and subject matter,” art teacher Ms. Laura Naar said. “The art has to shine through more than me, so I have to make sure I give the right information in the right way so students can understand it.”

While Naar is thriving in her Zoom classes, most untraditional classes such as art and music are overcoming their own set of challenges, as they are usually more physical and performance-based.

“We’ve been able to do lots of things we normally wouldn’t because of so many performances,” CHS’ new choir director Mr. Aaron Pollard said. “I think that this has presented an opportunity to be a little more hands-on with the individual singer, so far everyone has been very encouraged by what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

The goals and objectives of each class have been changed by the teacher as students are simply unable to accomplish the same amount of work online as they would in person. In addition to this, the shortened hours are helpful to reduce student’s screen time but provide only half of the time teachers are used to having for their classes.

“I say that I’m an educator first and a math teacher second,” math teacher Mitchell said. “Right now I can only be a math teacher, all we’re doing is math and we’re working hard on the subjects we’re covering but I’m unable to do my “something different Fridays.”

Mitchell’s “something different Fridays” is well known by all of his former students as a time where their teacher can share his knowledge on subjects other than math. The loss of time and curriculum–otherwise consistent from year to year– has been difficult for teachers.

“I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve been up past midnight trying to fit an AP curriculum into about half the time,” Maines said. “I’m used to five days of 72 minutes and now we get four days of 45 minutes with the reduced connection between teacher and students.”

The time shortage isn’t the only problem that accompanies online learning; teachers are finding that the necessary relationships between them and their students are harder to make and maintain. Students have the option in most classes to have their camera on or off, and teachers miss seeing their student’s faces.

“Teaching to black screens is really hard,” Naar said. “I tell some great jokes and I think I’m really funny when I’m basically teaching to myself. I could have a conversation with myself all day long.” 

While Naar is able to entertain herself when her students aren’t visible, a commonality between teachers is their wish to be able to interact with their students again. The debate of having a camera on or off is alive among students, but it is very clear that teachers prefer and sometimes need them on to best teach.

“More important than the exam is the relationships I build with my students,” Maines said. “My number one goal is to help to create happy, healthy, and engaged students, and I don’t know if I’m doing that every day or not because I can’t read their faces.”

Above all, teachers are worried about their students. Without seeing their students, teachers have no idea if they are grasping the information or struggling to understand the lessons. From their perspective, teachers assume students are adjusting well because they are turning in work and are accomplishing assignments. However, some teachers are noticing a lack of enthusiasm in the students they can see.

“It’s difficult to be as creative as possible and have the students be as excited about the lessons as they might normally be,” Pollard said.

So much of school is socializing and working together to complete tasks. Online, teachers are unable to focus as much individual attention on everyone in their class as they might in-person.

“I don’t feel confident that I’m getting to each student like I normally do, and I don’t feel like I’m connecting like I normally would,” Maines said. “That makes me feel less effective as a teacher, and I’ve never really felt that way before.” 

What keeps teachers motivated through the triumphs and challenges of online learning is the possibility of being back with their students soon. While most don’t know what hybrid learning will look like, they are excited for what the next chapter this school year has in store.