Teaching in COVID

By Anna Hanuska

When distance learning began, teachers rushed to convert their lessons and students struggled to alter their learning styles, and adapting became a difficult necessity. While surely everyone at school recognizes the advantages and drawbacks to distance learning, many teachers still set unrealistic expectations for their students.

For example, sometimes teachers assume that just because school is online, students have more time. As a result, many underestimate or misunderstand student struggles. Due to the difficult format of online lectures, we often have to spend more time going over material to understand it, and sometimes more classwork is assigned to do “as homework.” Also, Zoom fatigue is real, and after hours of staring at classes on screens, doing homework all day on the computer is pretty exhausting. The largest factor in our lack of time, however, is the absence of classroom social interaction. During normal school, I could interact with my friends at break, study hall, lunch, passing periods, and even class. Now, all of those little interactions have to be scheduled outside of school and leave even less open time. Additionally, just because school is online doesn’t mean all other responsibilities are cancelled as well. Clubs still meet online, sports still practice, many students still work or attend night classes, and family time is still necessary.

Now, teacher’s jobs definitely haven’t been easy. There was a distinct lack of training accompanying the new adoption of the program Canvas, evident through the clear variance in familiarity with the program. Most teachers have learned how Canvas works by now, but each uses it differently. Some are kind and post all assignments under the “assignments” tab, while others post assignments only under the “modules” tab, where they are often forgotten. I even have a teacher who insists that we email her our homework through the Canvas email. While different methods obviously work better for different teachers, they fail to take into account that students must adapt to six or seven teachers’ preferred methods of assignment posting and submission. 

Additionally, teachers have taken this opportunity to select deadlines that benefit their schedules best, not realizing the detriment to the students. With in-person school, the vast majority of deadlines were during each respective class, with the occasional 11:59 turnitin.com submission. Now, every teacher has a different set of deadlines. Deadline flexibility should be the default, given the vast diversity and sheer randomness of due dates. I’ve had weird deadlines, including 8:30 PM the same day and a Saturday at noon. The teachers that make these funky deadlines insist that that time “works best for me to start grading” and lecture students to “check Canvas more often.” It’s ironic when these same teachers struggle with Canvas themselves or are unprepared for class, and tell students not to expect email responses on weekends. Expecting students to be available to submit homework in the middle of a weekend or the same day it is assigned is simply disrespectful. It assumes that students have no life outside of school and no other responsibilities. Reasonable and consistent due dates and times are easier to remember and fairer to the students. For example, one of my teachers has all homework for the week due at 11:59 PM on Sundays. It seems like an odd time, because we don’t actually have class the next day, but because it’s the same every single week, it’s easy to remember, and having all weekend to find time to finish it is always helpful. Also, the diversity in the way teachers “assign” assignments makes it hard to check Canvas and make sure there is actually nothing due. I’ve heard many students discuss their constant state of stress and worry, because you can never be sure that there isn’t another assignment hiding. Thus, adaptable deadlines are an absolute must. In conclusion, teachers should make an effort to be accommodating and flexible toward students during this time. If they want to not worry about work on weekends or have reasonable times to grade things, they should extend the same courtesy to students. We have our own lives too, and distance learning isn’t easy for us either. If we work together, everyone will be more successful.