In person or online, teachers are on the side of our students

As a high school math teacher, I have been awaiting the start of my second year teaching with excitement and trepidation. While I look forward to reconnecting with my students, I’m nervous about kicking off the school year with unanswered questions.

In all the conversations on opening schools, it seems to me that teacher voices are largely absent. I offer the following perspective from the front of the classroom.

As teachers, we had most of last spring to become accustomed to remote teaching. From that experience, I know these things: first, the workload is substantial. Sometimes even with only 50 percent of my students or fewer participating as we transitioned (a situation reported by school districts across the country, not just in our school), the days were packed, with little time for breaks or prep work.

Second, parents are key to remote learning success. Students need adults to keep them accountable. But support varies for each family, something teachers need to account for in their approach to each student.

Third, the digital divide for many rural students or students living in poverty is real. In the scramble to transition to remote classes, it became clear how many kids lack proper equipment or internet access. That gap remains for many Idaho students today.

This fall each school district is responding differently to the question of how to start the year safely. My own school will open in a hybrid format. I will teach in-person to a different group of kids each day, as well as support students working virtually or in classrooms a few hours. Each student will have one full day of math instruction a week, followed by independent work and remote consultation to explain concepts and provide personalized support.

Learning math requires daily attention. I depend on my students to stay current on their work and ask questions when they don’t understand. If you’re a parent or educator, you know this can be challenging and sets high expectations.

We don’t know yet how this new structure will impact our students, and what details have been overlooked. We only know there’s no perfect way to deliver content online. I understand the necessity. It’s one we’re all dealing with.

It’s hard for kids to be away from their friends, teachers, and routine, both emotionally and academically. I’m concerned about the health and safety of my students and their families. I worry about my seniors getting through the content they need in order to graduate. And that’s assuming all goes well. We don’t know what will happen if there’s an outbreak in the community and we have to go completely online with little notice.

What can help? If you’re a parent, ensure your children stay on top of their work. Show empathy for parents you work with, who may be managing their workload in a whole new way.

And extend grace toward teachers. They’re working hard to support students under limitations they can’t address. Be aware they haven’t always had a say in whether they’re working in person or from home.

The bottom line is that we, as teachers, are on the side of our students.

I am still optimistic. I believe this crisis presents an opportunity for overdue changes in education, to examine entrenched systems that are ripe for revision. This health pandemic is highlighting the inequities in our education system that cause disadvantaged students to suffer even more. All of this should bring us together for positive change on behalf of every student everywhere. That is what continues to give me hope.

Rachel Bagnall

Rachel Bagnall

Rachel Bagnall is a Teach For America Idaho corps member and a math teacher at Wilder High School.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday