I worked on it, day after day, until it shone like Aladdin’s lamp. Full of promise, the lesson would bring together all that my classes have been working on since we returned from Christmas vacation, and (hopefully) launch the kids into the new unit with energy and enthusiasm. Confident, I saved my PowerPoints and completed the Nearpod version of that lesson before leaving it. I was anxious to teach the lesson on Tuesday.
The Seventh Grade staff received word later that evening that our students would be quarantining this week, an all-too-common event in education this year. Things had changed. There would be no face-to-face learning on Tuesday. We were being yo-yoed back into Zoom teaching.
You don’t have to be a teacher to realize that “live, in the classroom” education is more engaging (and, ultimately, more productive) than a “Zoom, away from the classroom” education. Somehow, the electricity that is generated by teacher and students working together, face-to-face, enhances every lesson. While Zooming has gotten us through during these long days of Covid-19, it is really no one’s choice for best practice. It’s a work-around that has somehow pushed itself to the front of many schools’ educational endeavors.
I admit to approaching Tuesday’s encounter with my Seventh Grade Language Arts students with some degree of anxiety. A great deal of the class’s success rested on the engagement level of my students. Would they pay attention to the class, or would they be distracted by the items that make their bedrooms so special to them? Would students on the screen respond to my questions audibly, as they would in the classroom, or would I be answering most of my own questions in a silent vacuum? Would the class that I had worked so hard to create even work in a Zoom classroom? I had made some “Zoom tweaks” over the weekend. Would they be enough?
I have always had respect for my St. John’s students. On Tuesday, they proved their mettle once again. The class members were engaged, creative, and focused. Answers, when requested, came frequently — and new student-initiated insights were offered. The students came through, as they always seem to do when we meet together. . . regardless of the means through which we meet.
Throughout this challenging academic year, St. John’s students’ enthusiasm and engagement have fueled my colleagues’ and my desire to make each class period exceptional. Whether in the classroom or on the iPad, class periods are planned with care – and our students respond accordingly. More importantly, in whatever teaching situation in which we find ourselves, Our Lord continuously provides us with encouragement and proof that, as we work for Him, He recognizes our work and is praised through it.
The remainder of the school year stretches out ahead of us, filled with uncertainty. How many more times we be yo-yoed back into the Zoom classroom is known only to God Himself. Yet, we all have seen that, even when the preferred medium of education is denied to us, God’s Work is done in classrooms here at St. John’s. I saw it, personally, last week.
Kevin G. Smith, Instructor
Language Arts: 7
Christian Faith and Life: 7
Film Study – Elective