Starting Virtual Learning as a Teacher
For the first time in her 15 years of teaching, Elizabeth Chapman will start school by turning on her laptop and getting on Microsoft Teams.
Before the pandemic, she could look around her classroom and see a sea of faces looking right back. Now, she just sees pixels on a screen with the occasional student who turns on their camera. Before the pandemic, class discussions involved the entire class. Now, she's lucky to get just a few.
"We know that it is going to be more challenging to build relationships and community when we're not all physically in the same building together," Chapman said. "I don't think that we're going to miss out on that necessarily, but we have to be conscious and deliberate about choosing to invest our time in creating those whereas they might occur a little more naturally in a 'regular' school year."
On Sept. 8, Bellaire High School, along with all the other HISD schools, will start the year off virtually. A momentous occasion for everybody involved, comparable to the situation during Hurricane Harvey.
"I think there are some similarities in terms of what our community went through when school was disrupted as a result of the flooding in 2017." Chapman said. "It wasn’t safe for us to have school in person for an extended period of time, so we banded together to figure out how to make the best of the situation."
Amidst the chaos, Chapman sees a light at the end of the road and is hopeful for the start of the school year. She has been preparing for online schooling for the entire summer and knows that things will be different from when the pandemic first started.
"If I’m being honest, I think that some of my virtual lessons might be even better than what I could do in the physical classroom because it will be so student-centered and driven by technology, which offers so much more than a pen-and-paper system." Chapman said.
The resilience of our teachers has truly been shown in this time of crisis. When most people were left gaping their mouths wide open, thinking they cannot believe the events occuring in the world, teachers like Chapman were working hard to adjust their lessons to fit virtual learning.
"Of course, I wish that it were safe for us to go back to school face-to-face, but I’m excited about the possibilities that our time in virtual learning is going to bring about." Chapman said. "It won’t be like the end of the 19-20 school year where everything was improvised and on the fly; all of the teachers I know have spent the whole summer learning how to use new technology and restructuring our lessons and thinking about what is really important to our students."
Because of this, Chapman is able to maintain her motivation and be a role model for her students and fellow teachers. This pandemic has left many feeling cloudy in their aspirations for the future. It has destroyed many lives, hopes, and dreams. However, this fuels Chapman to teach her students even more.
"I had some very positive and some very negative experiences as a student myself over my years in school, and I wanted to be a part of the positive experiences for other people." Chapman said. "My students energize me; I get to wake up each morning and go to a job that I love because they are so curious and funny and committed to making the world a better place."
The COVD-19 pandemic has exposed the unpreparedness of people around the world. However, teachers remain a symbol of hope, passing this onto students, their parents, and their communities. While not in the spotlight as much as first-responders, there is no doubt that these ordinary people are extraordinary heros.
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