IMHO - Distance Learning
The frustrating misconceptions of distance learning for educators
**DISCLAIMERS** Some of my content is based on facts and supported by evidence. IMHO posts are posts that are written In My Humble Opinion. These are posts that are based on my opinions, personal experience and feelings.
In this era of the COVID Pandemic, we see a change in all aspects of life. The usual three-step pat-down: keys, wallet, phone, is no more. It is now keys, wallet, phone and dang it… I forgot that damn mask. We have felt the social, economic, and emotional impact this pandemic has had on not only our country but the world. There have been many misconceptions about this pandemic, but one has bothered me the most. It bothers me because it applies to my field and myself.
See, I work in the education field. I do not want to go into more detail because I want to protect my students, the school I work at, and myself. One thing I have heard is… how hard can distance teaching be? You get to work from home. You've all seen the memes of students crying, Zoom cashing in their checks, and teachers… chilling with their feet up. That's funny for the meme, but is it accurate? No. Now, I want to make it clear. I can only speak for myself, my colleagues, and my educator friends. For the other schools across the country, the meme of the teacher chillin with his feet up may be accurate, but I can assure you that this is not the case for everyone. I'm okay with a good joke, but my problem is that society has generalized this understanding. This idea that just because this may be true for some schools means that this must be true for all the others. We've seen the tik tok videos of the kindergarten and 1st-grade teachers PUTTING ON SHOW for their kiddos.
Now again, I cannot speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. Here are the challenges I have faced with Distance Learning:
1.) A struggle to connect - Like many great comedians, I feed off the audience's energy (a.k.a. My students). I read my kiddo's body language and facial expressions to see if the lesson is "hitting." Are my jokes hitting? Are they laughing? It's hard to do this when they're just tiny little boxes on my screen, even harder when they don't have their cameras on because of "technical issues" (DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware that this may indeed be the case for some students.) I worked around this by having one-on-one meetings with each of my kiddos once a month. Now, this has significantly helped in creating some teacher-student relationships, but it's very draining. There were days where I started work at 9 am and didn't log off till at least 8 pm, with nonstop back to back meetings. It's a struggle, and to be honest; it's a bit lonely…
2.) Zoom fatigue - Did you know that computer screens? Phone screens? They all give off a blue light that can give you one hell of a migraine if you stare too long? Yeah, I had to learn that the hard way at the beginning of the pandemic. I had worked in the education field for a while before the pandemic, but I was always fine. I guess those few moments between typing and then turning to look at the student I'm working with makes a difference. Staring at my screen for 8 hours… nonstop, is exhausting. And at the beginning of the pandemic, I had the worst migraines. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be able to invest in some blue light glasses. This has helped BIG TIME, but that doesn't mean I still don't get tired of staring at a screen all freakin day. A solution I found was to try and take breaks. Even if I still have emails sitting in my inbox, even if a student is asking for five more minutes to ask me the same question again, I leave to take at least 10 mins to break away from the computer screen and give my eyes a rest.
3.) Burnout is easier - In my line of work, it is easy to burnout. Teaching isn't a 9-5 job. Of course, you have your scheduled class time where you meet with the students, but then after that, there's the grading, the lesson planning, the answering emails from admin and students, and then supporting students who need extra support. It is widespread to experience some burnout, and I am prone to it. The only way I found around this problem is to compartmentalize. This means that when I am at work, I am solely focused on my work and the kids, but when I get home, I'm no longer Ms. Medina; I'm just Kelly, who needs to clean, do laundry, cook, take care of her partner and doggo. It's challenging to do this because the lines can become so blurred that I am always working from home. When I stepped onto campus, I was Ms. Medina, but I was just Kelly when I came home. A way around this that has somewhat helped me was that I have a specific area/teaching studio. This is where I sit down, and I am Ms. Medina teaches her students. When I leave that area, I am just Kelly, but it isn't easy even then, and I have found myself experiencing burnout lately. Luckily, I have a very supportive fiance that helps me out.
Now I have many more points to bring up in this post, but I am limiting myself to just three because I do not want it to seem like I am just complaining. After all, I'm not. It may sound like it, but I promise I'm not. You see, I'm just tired of seeing this notion that teachers are lazy and are taking advantage of working from home. Please don't get me wrong. I love my work. I love my students. I love what I do but believe me. There is no set back with our feet up in distance learning. There is a lot of pressure on educators to close the gap in learning for students who are losing out on their education during this pandemic. This pandemic has been brutal for all of us, educators, students, essential workers, everybody. So let's be mindful that this pandemic is not easy for anyone.