New Things

“I’m always trying new things and learning new things. If there isn’t anything more you can learn — go off and die.” ~ Morgan Freeman

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Every school year, my son would come to me, worried that he wouldn’t know what he needed to know to enter the next grade. “But Mom, I don’t know 6th grade math.” or “I don’t know how to do 7th grade science.” And every year, I’d tell him, “You don’t need to know how to do it yet, that’s why you go to school . . . to learn how to do it.”

2020 has brought some phenomenal changes — some good, some not so good. Among the best changes? A re-evaulation of how we view education and the different modalities of learning. Prior to this year, the majority of people believed that children HAD to be in a brick-and-mortar school building. Homeschool was for the weirdos or the nerds or the super religious people who wear denim skirts everywhere. (For the record, when we homeschooled, I didn’t even own a denim skirt.)

Along came 2020 and with it the COVID pandemic – and everything changed. School was closed early, students were forced to do virtual learning from home. Parents were forced to deal with having children at home while also attempting to work from home. Now with the beginning of autumn and the return to school, there is virtual learning, on-site learning and combinations of both. Educators are realizing that some children do better in the comfort of their home, rather self-directed at doing their assignments. Other children need the discipline and routine away from home. Parents are realizing what their children actually have to accomplish in school, and it’s not what it was when they were in school.

The face of learning has changed for university students and instructors as well. Adults are having to readjust their expectations. As much as I am an introvert, I love teaching. I love the give-and-take between instructor and student, playing off each other, hearing their feedback and being able to see facial expressions and body language which relays to me the effectiveness of my lesson. Using an online platform such as Zoom or Adobe Connect removes the interaction that is so vital. No longer can I rely on my senses to pick up clues, I have to wait for questions or comments to be typed into a chat box. It is impossible for me to see all students on a screen. They can see me as I teach (when I’m not sharing my screen with my presentation) but the lack of face-to-face feels detrimental to the connection we make in person.

Tomorrow is a run-thru of a virtual presentation going live next month. We try to inject as many mishaps into these practice sessions as possible to prepare us for worst case scenario situations. It requires us to stay on point with our co-instructor. Your partner has a heart attack while teaching? Loss of internet connectivity? The presentation slides won’t advance? The student’s have audio but not visual? Or vice versa — they can see the slides but cannot hear the speaker? We’ll work on timing as well. Speaking in front of a class requires a sense of timing to stay on schedule. Teaching in a virtual room is disconcerting and distorts the amount of time — some will have to slow down their presentation while others will have to share anecdotes that relate to add padding and round out their presentation.

My first experience with virtual teaching was a two-day notice and while it was fun, it was a wee bit nerve wracking. The moderator assured me that my subject matter was interesting and even she learned something she did not know. I remember being nervous and terrified of blurting out something in a recorded session that would be horribly inappropriate. I’m happy to report that students and instructors alike, survived. With the planned rehearsals, nerves should be a thing of the past this go round.

Thanks to 2020 we get to try new things, new ideas, and new concepts.

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