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San Diego Teacher Gives Glimpse Into Teaching Virtually

 April 8, 2021 at 10:53 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Monday, April 12th marks a historic back to school day for many San Diego County children for over a year. Tens of thousands of kids here have been learning through a computer screen and getting to know their teachers and classmates virtually to get a glimpse of what teaching students online has been. Like. We asked a Rancho Bernardo high school teacher to record an audio diary for a week. Here's social science teacher, Tristin McCoy. Speaker 2: 00:26 So I'm sitting here about five minutes before class is going to start. And normally on a typical day, the campus would just be brimming over with energy. And you could hear the voices of kids going through the hall talk and teachers standing outside their door, high five, and kids talking to them, welcoming them as they come in the class. There's just an energy on campus that, you know, if you've, if you've never taught a it's indescribable and once all those kids filter into your class, so I'm excited, some not wanting to be there, but those are the ones you pour a little bit more energy and effort and love into. And once that door closes, there's, there's just something magic that happens between the teacher and the, and the kids in that class. And you're, you're a family for that hour and a half, you know, and you have fun and you push each other and it's an ongoing, just living thing. Speaker 2: 01:23 And you know, I'm sitting here now a couple of minutes before class, and it's just, it's a graveyard. Nobody's walking in the halls, no kids to high five, no energy in class. You know, when zoom, when that zoom camera turns on, you know, I'm going to try to bring the energy, but it's, it's hard. It's hard talking to, you know, a screen and I'm seeing one inch faces. And sometimes not even that, because they're not in the camera or I'm sharing my screen. So you can't even see their faces. It's just, it's a very, very sad environment and void of void of the usual energy. So we do what we can and, uh, you know, put on a happy face and see if we can, we can energize these kids somehow. [inaudible] Speaker 2: 02:22 so a big part of class in normal times is building a classroom culture community, and really getting these kids connected and learning from each other and developing some relationships and trust because we do so much group work that culture really needs to be established. And in a virtual world, it is really hard to build any of that. So I know a lot of teachers like me spend some time putting kids in breakout rooms and giving them some guided questions for them to get connected and getting to know each other and, uh, learning to build those relationships. But you know, when you're sitting on zoom and some kid's cameras are off and are not responding, and you can tell that when you're looking at them and the camera they're playing video games or not engaged, or you jump into the breakout rooms and you know, two kids are talking and the others have their cameras off. And it's a challenge. It's a challenge, really hard to do something that I look forward to. I know many other teachers look forward to in the classroom is really getting to know these kids and having, helping them get to know each other. But it's just a, it's just a challenge in this virtual world. Speaker 3: 03:45 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 03:45 Hang on. My list of things to do today is to reach out to some parents whose children have not been engaged in class at all up to this point. Our quarter started about a week and a half, two weeks ago. And I have about five students in every class who have not attended a zoom meeting, which we have, uh, four days a week or have completed any assignments. So I have emailed parents up to this point, but I've not given phone calls yet. So that's something I'll be doing today. And I think that is probably one of the more challenging things about this new virtual learning environment is what to do with these kids who aren't, who aren't engaged in class. Uh, typically you have these kids in class with you and through face-to-face interactions, you get to talk to them, one-on-one build some relationships, show them that you care, you know, work with them, nag them, give them multiple opportunities to get on board. Speaker 2: 04:54 And because you see them every day, those connections, those relationships really do start to move them in, uh, in the right direction. But in this situation, these kids are, they're pretty much anonymous to us and we're anonymous to them. Um, we have no relationship with them, no connection, no face-to-face opportunities to really reach them and try to influence them and get them moving in the right direction. So that's been the hardest I will call their parents today, but their emails have gone, or my emails to them have not been responded to. So my, my hope is that maybe a phone call will work, but in my experience, usually if the kids don't engage, the parents don't return emails. They usually don't respond to phone calls either, but you never know Speaker 3: 05:51 [inaudible], I'm on my way to get my first round of the COVID backseat. I am Speaker 4: 05:58 Really excited about the vaccination, not just for me, but that means that more and more educators are going to be getting the vaccination as more and more of the vulnerable population is going to be getting the vaccinations. And that means we can get back to business and reopen our schools and get these kids on campus, where they belong. It's been a long time coming in. Um, you know, I know most of the teachers that I know all the teachers that I know are excited to get the kids back in their classrooms and start working with them and seeing their faces and engaging with them and teaching. What we love to do Speaker 3: 06:51 That was Rancho Bernardo. High school teacher in McCoy. McCoy is now fully vaccinated he's back in the classroom, but he says only about 20% of students have currently opted to go back to campus. So he's continuing to teach virtually while he also teaches in person on Monday, you can hear more stories like this. Join midday edition for a special marking the first day back to in-person instruction for many San Diego students.

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To get a glimpse of what teaching students online has been like, we asked a high school teacher to record an audio diary for a week.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments