If you ask anyone, “Which year has changed your life the most?” Perhaps, some might say the year they graduated high school or 2001 after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Guaranteed, in ten years, most of us would say 2020. Our everyday habits have altered in some capacity due to the pandemic’s impact on society. Teachers and professors, especially, altered their common teaching practices for this school year.
As an adolescent education major, I take interest in the future of schools and what will happen post-quarantine. Will we stop wearing masks by the time I teach? Should I make my classroom materials 100 percent digital?
As a curious bird myself, I asked others in the teaching profession if they think the chaos just started. Last spring, Dariana completed her student teaching placement despite transitioning from in person to online. Now a graduate student, she had to make the decision whether to teach full-time or continue her Master’s in English Literature: “I thought about teaching full-time before the pandemic hit but decided to work full-time on my degree instead.”
Dariana believes that students still need support. There's the possibility their classes won’t be accessible to those who don’t have the right technology.
“In terms of changes in education, I think there needs to be a great change in the way our schools are funded in order to ensure equity for ALL students, particularly our students in situations where they may not have access to internet/reliable technology to access online classes,” she said. “We’re seeing a bit of that struggle now with schools scrambling to create plans for their students and I hope this leads to a change in our nation’s reliance on standardized testing and approaches to modes of instruction.”
One of my professors this semester, Janet Bisti, is a full-time middle school teacher in Newburgh and teaches in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Currently, I am in her Curriculum and Assessment class, the co-requisite to Fieldwork 1. Professor Bisti says that her district started off 100 percent virtual and plans to stay virtual until October. The students are in small groups. For example, the K-2 students start in person, but the grades are split into two teams.
In order for the school staff to prepare for virtual learning, “We've gone through a whole bunch of professional development. In the spring, we started a program called ‘Mindful Mondays,’ which was virtual professional development,” Bisti said.
Bisti also mentions the changes teachers are making to their curriculum because of virtual learning. There is more student-centered practice as opposed to one teacher lecturing for forty-five minutes. However, COVID-19 will continue to impact schools.
“We’re not just facing a health problem, but a budget crisis,” Bisti said. “There could be more district layoffs and there might not be enough teaching assistants or custodial staff. Schools might have teachers split up into teaching online and in person.”
The SAT and Regents exams were cancelled as of last spring. Although this relieved many students, there is still concern about the grades they receive to get into college.
“If this pandemic has taught us anything about education, it’s that schooling is much more than test scores,” Bisti added. “Our students need to be looked at as humans with their own hopes, dreams and needs.”
Based on countless Instagram and Tik Tok videos, many teachers admit to the overwhelming amount of work virtual learning is, yet show optimism by giving other teachers tips and tricks to using online resources for their students. Creating a Bitmoji classroom is the aesthetic trend for teachers. English teachers offer virtual bookshelves, where students can discover books based on the genre and topic they like. Now more than ever, technology is a lifesaver for teachers who can’t give students pencils to borrow or who are not allowed to have in-person conferences with their students. It is imperative for students and teachers to make the most of their current situation and to stay safe. Education continues to improve, and schools will bounce back from a devastating outbreak.