Teachers struggle with online learning

Jackson Marchal '21, Staff Writer

With so many parents and students frustrated with online school, it’s important to remember that this is a difficult adjustment for teachers too. Most are working harder than they ever have before to teach the same curriculum in less time, with a different format, to students who may be distracted or disengaged.

According to Katherine Parent, a teacher here at South, there are new challenges presented while teaching virtually that are not necessarily present when teaching in person, such as the time it takes to prepare materials.

“Everything that I have from previous years is formatted for in-person class and now I’m having to spend all this time recording lessons and taking worksheets that were in pdf format and putting them in a word doc so kids can type on it,” Parent said “It’s just things like that that takes a lot of time for me.”

According to Scott Peltier, a spanish teacher at South, he has never been trained to teach online and had to completely restructure the way he teaches. A lot more thought has to be put into figuring out how to keep students engaged, he explained.

“I’ve taught the same course for 15 to 20 years, but now I have to make sure students are participating,” Peltier said. “You could change the window and still show your face, but fool around on a different website during class. I can’t tell. So I have to think of how to keep students active in the lesson plan. It’s not like school where I can tell that you’re on your phone or sleeping.”

According to teacher Nicole Westfall, it’s the issue of engagement that is keeping the system from running smoothly.

“A lot of kids aren’t invested,” Westfall said “I think I’m doing a good job at explaining things and then I find out the next day when I look at the worksheet that kids aren’t (understanding) it. So I thought everybody was opening up these documents that we were using, but they weren’t. There’s a lot of frustration going back to figure out what happened.”

According to Peltier, the situation is affecting his life outside of school as well.

“My sleeping schedule varies now from 1 to 3 o’clock,” Peltier said. “Sunday night, I get ready for Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday night, I get ready for Thursday and Friday. Those two nights without a doubt are the hardest because I have to make brand new lesson plans.”

According to Peltier, it’s hard to make new connections with kids, even though he understands where students are coming from.

“We’re supposed to have student-teacher relationships, and we can’t really do that this way,” Peltier said. “It’s really tough. Almost everybody is structured where they’re on mute and you only talk when asked to talk. I have maybe a third of students who don’t use their camera so I don’t even know what they look like. We’re trying to create a relationship with people who I can’t even see or talk to much.”

Peltier additionally said he wanted to get it across that teachers should still be thankful for having their jobs.

“I’m not special,” Peltier said. “Some people don’t have jobs,some people are really sick from the virus. I’m not looking to say poor me, but it is different. We’ve never done this before and we’re still learning. At the end of the day, we’re just hoping we do what’s best for the kids.”