Arizona K12 Center Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke reflects on seeing teachers take on the challenges and finding opportunities while teaching online.Oct 01, 2020
I am part of the selection team for Arizona’s Teacher of the Year and the Ambassadors for Excellence. Since July I have been reviewing the applications of some incredible Arizona educators. In the last two days of the selection process, we were immersed in interviewing these teachers and viewing videos of them teaching.
These are not ordinary times. For the first time in my career, I watched 10 teachers teach online. My only experience with an online class was in my doctoral program when I took my first online class. At the time, I wasn’t a huge fan of it as I craved the social interaction an in-person class provides, but online for that particular class was the only option.
As I watched these teachers, I thought about the challenges of getting to know and engaging students in an online format. I saw the extraordinary lengths that some of the teachers put forth to transform a corner of their room into a makeshift classroom. Teaching has never been easy, but all I could think of was how difficult this must be.
I recently overheard a conversation where one woman’s mother commented that when she had her grandkids for the day, she had a new appreciation for what the mom was going through. I could tell that the entire experience was a challenge for the grandmother. The mom went on to say, “I feel sorry for these poor teachers. They have to manage these kids and all this technology.” I walked away realizing that these are difficult times for parents, teachers, and students. Everyone wants things to go back to normal.
What I know is that everyone is doing their level best to make all this work. It is messy and certainly not easy. In this virtual and hybrid world we are living in, there are opportunities. I have heard that kids are becoming stronger advocates for themselves. They are speaking up and asking questions. These are good things. Parents are gaining a deeper understanding of what their children are learning in school and how they can help.
And, while we speak of the need to create safe learning environments for our children, we need to be mindful that we need to ensure safe working environments for the adults in those same spaces. Our school communities are not just about the teachers and students, but there are principals, food service personnel, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, school nurses, and paraprofessionals to name a few. They need to be safe, too. Their safety is our safety.
I live in awe and wonder of the teachers, parents, and students who are making this work. For now, I think it is time for us all to exercise some grace and compassion.