Cut teachers slack; they’re the ones holding the rope

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Lynn Reynolds

Teachers work relentlessly to make sure everything is getting across over Google Meets… the least students can do is to actively listen and stay focused.

Because of the online learning – which will later rotate to a hybrid schedule through the end of the semester, school has been much more complicated than ever before. The long eight-hour days have not been easy for students, but no one has been thinking about the teachers. While students sit in their 8 a.m. classes with muted microphones and cameras angled at their foreheads, the teachers need to be lively and have lesson plans to keep students interested and engaged for all 45+ minutes of class. This in no means is easy to do – especially over a computer.

One big difference from the regular classroom compared to distance learning is the dynamic at the beginning of class. On a typical school day, most students walk in the class with lively looks on their faces, chatting with friends and eager to stir-up conversation within the classroom. Distance learning is not the same. Most students show up to class with their mute button on, killing the relaxing dynamic that should flow around the room at the beginning of each in class. When everyone comes into a class with the mute button on, the students’ experiences are not the same, as it is much harder to get them engaged if there is no sense of tranquility. Students should try to come into a meet with mics unmuted and strike up a conversation with teachers or start an all-class discussion – whether that be about the big game last night or a recently watched TV show. Anything can help lift spirits during these long, dreadful hours – but it is ultimately in the hands of the students.

In most schools, a majority of what teachers do is driven by different student’s reactions and responses. The most significant contributions have to come from students to help teachers bring more fun and interest in the learning environment. Actively answering and asking questions would keep discussions lively and fascinating for everyone involved, although it should be recognized that that is not as easy for some as it is for others.

Anything can help lift spirits during these long, dreadful hours – but it is ultimately in the hands of the students.”

One other thing to consider for the teachers is what is best known as ‘Zoom fatigue.’ Zoom fatigue is the result of being on a laptop too long, causing one to get tired, along with getting headaches, eye strain, and so much more. Zoom fatigue is mostly centered around students… but why? Teachers spend just as much time in the Zoom meetings, and they have to spend hours upon hours during their days to create lesson plans that can keep 10-20 students engaged over a computer. The easiest way to lower this Zoom fatigue for both students and teachers is a couple quick and pretty easy fixes. One big thing that teachers have been trying to incorporate into every class is writing on paper. Writing on paper helps give the eyes a break from all of the screen-time. This is super important as if every class took out a 10-15 minute chunk to do some independent writing or something like that on paper, productivity would increase as students would be more engaged. A good couple of things to try are trying to take a minute during each class to stand up and get a quick stretch in to keep the blood flowing. Many teachers have introduced something like this in each class, especially between the third and fourth classes that bridge into each other. Especially during the lunch break or a free X-period, try not to worry about or work on homework – head to the couch for a bit of shut-eye or take a walk.

As this new format of school is becoming the new normal, it’s key to stay involved and engaged during all classes, as every teacher works hard to make sure it all works out. Try to meet the creativity that teachers use to make fun lesson plans with engagement – whether that means answering questions or helping others when they are stuck in a breakout room. Even though learning on screens can be challenging, students can develop all of the necessary tools to excel at it.