5 Challenges Teachers Faced During the Pandemic
It has been said that as a teacher, we wear many hats – mentor, detective, cheerleader, therapist – to name a few. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, all educators were faced with much more than playing certain roles. We encountered the need to change familiar unit plans, incorporate new learning platforms, solve technological challenges, and shift our instructional goals. Teachers were no longer only wearing many hats, we were suddenly handed a whole new wardrobe. We mixed and matched our resources until we found what worked best for us and our students.
Let’s look back on 5 challenges that teachers faced when the pandemic hit, and ways we found support.
1) Lack of Resources
In March of 2020, many teachers found themselves closing classroom doors one day, and not returning for a year or more. We quickly entered into a world of virtual learning, with our lesson plans and textbooks still locked inside our inaccessible schools due to imposed lockdowns.
Some teachers found themselves scrambling to digitally transform resources they already had. This process was time consuming and tedious. A better solution was finding a suitable curriculum online that met their needs. I personally had already been using several educational sites and apps to support my in-person lessons, and I encouraged my hesitant colleagues to use them once we pivoted to remote learning. Teachers started to realize that many digital resources were customizable and they could even add in their own content. We didn’t have to lose our teacher individuality after all!
Once teachers and students were connected online, the next challenge became engagement. How could a teacher differentiate instruction and customize curriculum from behind a screen? How could we get our students to feel comfortable turning their cameras on instead of teaching to a little icon during a live virtual class?
We needed to make learning FUN. Our students were more familiar with the virtual world than most of us, and we started listening carefully to the ways in which they liked to learn. I incorporated video discussion platforms and interactive presentation tools into my lessons. We would start out with questions about their favorite things and ease our way into mathematical questions. I learned that connecting on a personal level is a great way to engage students.
3) Real World Relevance
The pandemic took away time from our normal school year, leading to shifts in the world of education. High stakes testing was put on hold and we were able to focus our attention on teaching only the most useful information and concepts and helping students to plan for the future.
For the first time, many students were able to think about what really mattered to them instead of worrying about homework and tests. Real world discussions were taking place more often. I produced a virtual teacher talent show for the students using FlipGrid and had some of the students assist me, to learn a real-world application of new skills. One student became very interested in video editing and I taught him tips and tricks for using the software. As a result, he saw firsthand how important math is to the timing of the videos. The conversations we had probably would not have taken place if there was no pandemic, and helped open my eyes to how I can emphasize teaching these types of real life applications.
4) The Need for Professional Development
Without the possibility of in-person grouping or assessments, teachers had to find a way to tailor our curriculum to each class or even each student. Most teachers had never differentiated a virtual lesson, which presented the need for virtual teacher training.
Our school provided us with several professional development opportunities. Often, these presentations were just that. We watched a representative explain the software or website, but we did not have time to really do a deep dive into the material. To solve this problem, I liked to navigate the websites on my own time and then reach out to the support teams with any questions I had. The extra time I spent asking questions was worth it because I became proficient in the tools I was using. Any tool that has strong technical support will save teachers time and reduce stress.
5) Technical Difficulties
“You’re on mute!” This was every teacher’s least favorite phrase to hear during live lessons. As a teacher, I would crave the days of having the ability to erase something quickly from a board. Some days it just felt like everything was one big glitch. On days like this, teachers needed an easy way to solve these technical difficulties.
One day, I had been disconnected from my own live lesson. Luckily, my students patiently waited and I reconnected quickly. I reached out to colleagues and posted on online teacher message boards. A solution was to connect two devices. That way, if I was ever disconnected from one, I would still be connected on the other. I often logged on with my phone and used it to view the attendance list while simultaneously holding the live lesson on my laptop.
Teaching during the pandemic has brought education to a new level. Teachers embraced the digital world and were on a mission to find the most user friendly and content rich tools. It also became clear that whether there is a pandemic or not, there is a strong need for programs that help students think about their goals for the future and possible career paths.
eDynamic Learning offers an award-winning interactive CTE and elective curriculum that is easily accessible. The best part? eDynamic Learning as an organization is relatable and on point with current educational challenges because it is a teacher-founded company. The curriculum is abundant and relevant, offering a complete course curriculum to support teachers, yet still allows them to make it their own. The days of digging through filing cabinets for printed worksheets are over! eDynamic Learning also provides us with tools such as multimodal elements, flashcards, and podcasts to reach our learners. Teacher training is available online, in-person, or through a self-paced course. Districts can customize workshops by working with a Learning Professional Development Specialist. This guidance makes for the best implementation of a tailored curriculum in each classroom. Lastly, eDynamic Learning offers learning support by way of a searchable database of common troubleshooting questions and YouTube videos with teacher and student tutorial videos. Teachers or districts can also submit support tickets with more specific questions. Oh, how nice it is to be heard (especially when you’re literally accidentally on mute)!
Sometimes it takes a major event to help us to see what is truly important. For me, the pandemic sorted out my sometimes dated lessons and helped me make beneficial changes for the future. I realized that getting students excited about their future can be just as important as getting them ready for a test. As teachers, we can “dress up” our lessons in our own unique styles – whether our students are in-person, virtual, or a blended combination. And through it all, we will still be happy to wear as many hats as necessary to reach every last one.
New York Secondary Educator