By SARAH NACHIN– SEPT. 4, 2020
Maria Kretschmar is a third-year Intensive Reading teacher at Fox Chapel Middle School (FCMS). After a life-long career in publishing, she decided to change professions and has found her new calling to be very rewarding.
What are the major differences between teaching this year, so far, and teaching the last semester of school in April – May of this year?
The start of the new school year is much different for several reasons. During the last semester of last year, there was only one option, digital learning. This year, teachers are planning classes traditionally, digitally and some are teaching both during a hybrid class. Teachers are adapting to two new technology platforms.
The digital students are learning to operate a new platform for learning at the same time the teachers are also learning. The traditional students have to abide by new rules such as wearing masks, social distancing in the hallways, cafeteria and classrooms. PE is different because of the Covid rules, and the usual collaborative group work is now individual work. It feels overwhelming at times for teachers… but teachers are resilient people. I have found the students at FCMS to be very aware and much more mature about the seriousness of the situation than in the past.
What have been your biggest challenges and why?
The biggest challenge has been mastering the communication technology we are using to teach our digital curriculum and connect with our online learners. Teachers’ training focuses on teaching in a face-to-face classroom. We can see our student’s faces every day and read their state of mind, etc. Technology has been part of the classroom but hand-in-hand with face-to-face interaction. Virtual teaching uses many of these same resources. However, virtual teaching encompasses other strategies that have to do with making that personal connection and motivation. Traditional teachers are learning on-the-go.
Have there been any advantages to this new style of teaching?
Yes, I think that if families want to keep their children home, they can do so. It offers the students an opportunity to learn to use computers and software for educational purposes. Our teachers are teaching not only their subjects but also how to communicate virtually. It works for the students that are self- motivated, but it does not work for all. Some students need the face to face interaction between teacher and student to make progress in their learning.
What feedback have you received from students and parents?
The students who have returned to school face to face are happy to be back in school. They have been very cooperative with all the Covid-19 systems we have put in place. We welcome them into our classrooms. There seems to be a stronger bond with teachers, students and staff as we all work together to adapt to this new normal.
In our school half the families have opted for virtual or e-school and half opted for traditional. Let’s see how this develops as time goes by. We are ready to teach any way we must to keep our students safe and learning.