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HUTCHINS: Virtual teaching isn't as simple as some might think

HUTCHINS: Virtual teaching isn't as simple as some might think

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Virtual classes at Eastern View High School (copy)

Students in the library at EVHS in August on the first day of school patch in to a class being taught by a teacher who opted for remote instruction.

The challenges continue for teachers. I continue to hear that people think teaching virtually is no different than teaching in person. Some feel teachers should be proficient at virtual instruction after a few short weeks.

People don’t understand how teaching has changed since they were in school. Some teachers have said they’re drowning. Veteran teachers who have weathered countless changes through their careers are struggling. Everyone needed more time to adjust to the online format and that has not happened.

Years ago, teachers lectured in the classroom and then gave an assignment. The teacher would circulate around the room, assisting students when needed. After a certain amount of material was covered, a test was given. Teachers used a variety of questions to assess whether students understood the material and to allow for different learning styles.

Over the years, new methods of instruction were developed. Assignments and assessments became more complicated. Teachers have been required to provide elaborate lesson plans that use specific criteria and address the Standards of Learning.

Once block scheduling was instituted, teachers were required to adjust their teaching styles for longer class periods. Teachers were instructed to lecture briefly, provide an assignment, and then allow students time to begin homework. To take attendance, a teacher simply looked around the room to see who was there.

With No Child Left Behind, more data collection is required. This allows teachers to ”zero in” on specific student needs but dramatically increases the teacher’s workload. This decreases the time they actually spend working with students.

Technology is here to stay. It allows those who have internet to be reached at any time, anywhere. But it has drawbacks.

With increased virtual learning, teachers had to learn a totally new way of delivering instruction and assessing student progress. Different platforms have different features.

Classes which require hands-on learning are more challenging to teach. In some cases, students must record themselves so that teachers can review the video and assess their performance. While packets are provided for some art or science projects, students may be missing out on real hands-on experience. Teachers are missing in-person contact with their students.

Teachers who teach several subjects always have multiple preparations. Since students aren’t grouped by ability level, plans must accommodate students of different learning abilities. This is now extremely cumbersome. There are teachers who have over 10 preparations for virtual learning.

Recording attendance is far more complicated and takes an enormous amount of time. With students engaging at different times, it isn’t as simple as seeing who checks in at class time. High achievers, who are comfortable with technology, complete assignments much faster than those who need more support and have internet issues. Some parents say their children don’t have enough work to do and others say their children are overwhelmed.

Teachers are working to adjust. They need support and understanding from everyone involved.

There are some bright spots at this time. The county is using COVID money to increase broadband access for county residents. The USDA is providing free meals through December for all students enrolled in school. Taking advantage of this helps families deal with the economic stress.

More parent resources are online for those who have internet access. Career Partners is covering dual enrollment for up to 50 students who enroll in the Virginia Teach for Tomorrow program to encourage students to pursue a career in education. Local churches and organizations are providing additional day care opportunities and access to the internet.

It is encouraging to see community members stepping up to assist our parents, students, and educators.

Culpeper resident Elizabeth Hutchins is a former educator. She served 16 years on the county School Board.

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