English 10 teacher, Jennifer Swain, is teaching all of her virtual classes from home this school year due to medical reasons, but is still finding ways to actively engage her students through this difficult time.
Students were introduced to the possible idea of what virtual learning would look like after the sudden closing of the school last spring semester, but when school started Aug. 6, a new way to virtual learning was introduced, causing a rocky start for students and teachers.
“I think there is more active engagement since we have Zoom sessions requirements as opposed to [not] having those in the spring. So more kind of ‘in person’ engagement with students rather than when it was a crisis situation in the spring and it was really more about sending out work rather than that active engagement,” Swain said.
This year, the school is attempting a more interactive approach to teaching all virtual students by having scheduled Zoom call requirements, which for most, is on the gold hybrid days.
“I think students that are regularly showing up to their Zoom sessions are doing the best just because it’s an open time to ask questions, I can help them individually if they’re having issues with an assignment, and it’s impossible to assess whether or not they truly understand something if we’re not having that open interaction time,” Swain said.
To promote students to continue attending Swain’s Zoom calls, she has introduced a few fun activities for students to participate in. For starters, she has a class playlist and picks a student DJ at the beginning of each Zoom session and will play their music for the beginning of the call.
She also does a lot of interactive group assignments within her Zoom calls, such as “Breakout” and “Escape Rooms.” These assignments are assigned to students around to groups of eight and the goal is for the students to solve puzzles and “escape” by using the material they are learning at home.
“I do think we should have synchronous learning, not just Zoom sessions that are required, but actual ‘live classes’ for virtual students. I think that would help set a regular schedule because it would force students to and then [they] would have that better interaction with [their] peers and a regular set of students that [they] would interact with just like you would in a classroom, because students are really missing that social interaction time,” Swain said.
The school year has been a stressful time for everyone, but Swain is staying positive by setting a regular schedule for herself, not letting herself get too overwhelmed and watching a lot of puppy adoption videos.
“I try not to answer questions past a certain time and make sure I’m not driving myself crazy because it’s very easy if you’re a perfectionist like I am, but you have to learn to say no in order to not go insane in this job,” Swain said. “I work to live not live to work, so you have to have a life outside of your job. Have hobbies.”
As the team leader of English 10, she leaves this advice to her team and even other teachers to keep preserving through this time, which is not stressing out if you are behind.
“Take care of yourself first rather than driving yourself crazy trying to get everything in on time or making that outreach to 100 parents in a week. Just don’t let those little things get to you [and] set your own pace,” Swain said.