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Online Learning: A Teacher's Perspective

Madison Burnett —

Madison Burnett joined the English Department at LCŌ this year. She endeavors to give us her perspective of a teacher navigating this new world of online learning.

If you had told me at the start of the year that I would be teaching online, with video conferencing, I would have scoffed and laughed at the idea. But, as I sit to write this, I am able to reflect on how quickly the world around us can change and how wonderful we are at adapting. Not to blow my own trumpet, or the trumpet of the collective, but students and teachers should be proud of their efforts during this time.

You’ve probably seen a wealth of information from teachers, principals, the Ministry of Education, and the Prime Minister herself on what online teaching is like. But here, I want to provide a partial-nonsense, totally accurate, look into the life of a teacher at LCŌ during the COVID-19 crisis.

The New Workday

My day begins with three things: checking emails, checking tasks, and a small intention setting exercise I found on YouTube. It resembles a guided meditation and helps me get into the headspace for work. After I figure out what my day is going to look like, I head for my first coffee. It’s instant. For the rest of my morning, I am responding to student questions and checking in with my tamariki. My afternoon is where I try to get the bulk of my planning and marking done, this sometimes bleeds into my evenings or the early hours of the morning if I get on a good roll. Somewhere during my day, I find time to eat, go to the toilet (which I can now do at almost any time of the day - woohoo!), and check-in with my own whānau. When 5pm rolls around I try to put my laptop away and have some ‘me’ time.

While my life has changed, and my bedroom is now also called my home office, there are so many things that have stayed the same. I still leave cold coffee cups everywhere, I still get to hui with other staff, but most importantly, I still see ākonga trying their hardest, connecting to those around them, and smiling and laughing. Logistically, school looks different, but I still feel the same buzz and excitement that comes with learning.

Online Learning

Everything happened so suddenly. We were at school and then we weren’t. Shifting online brought with it many challenges, but new, unexpected positives arrived too. The most obvious challenge is student access to devices and the internet. These were known challenges and everyone is working hard to overcome these issues. Engagement is also a struggle. A lot of thought has gone into how to make activities fun and engaging enough to ensure tamariki don’t succumb to the pull of social media, movies, or video games. But, by collaborating with others and listening to student feedback, more and more students are engaging with the work! The last major challenge for me (and surely others) was my own technological limitations. Some of the online learning platforms I’d never used before, which made that first week feel a bit clunky.

Despite its challenges, there is a wealth of positives. For me personally, I now have a handful of new programs added to my kete. These new programs bring a new way to connect with ākonga, and to continue to develop relationships. And although I was feeling nervous at the start, I now feel a lot more confident - practice truly does make perfect!

I have been keeping exclusively to Google platforms, mostly utilizing Google Classroom and Google Meet. Google Classroom is a home-base for all of the work. I can set a task, with a due date, and students can complete it and submit it to me. It’s extremely user friendly for those of us who are… not so technically minded. Google Meet is a video conferencing program designed for remote meetings. It is easy to use and allows teachers to see all of their ākonga on one screen at the same time. It also has a present feature, one that allows everyone to see what is on my screen, so I can easily talk through tasks and answer questions.

However, the most positive thing for me to come from distance learning, is that I am reminded not to take life too seriously. The Google Meet hui’s have become a real source of entertainment for me now. When we have our staff hui, there are various staff dressed in silly hats or costumes, for example, Head of Science Helen Mora always has a silly pair of glasses on. I have even done a photo series of my own, showcasing the different ‘looks’ I’ve been wearing during the lockdown. Altogether, this silliness has reminded me that we are capable of making the best of a bad situation and when times are tough throwing on a ridiculous costume or even a hat can be enough for a good laugh or two.

While I am enjoying aspects of learning from home, I am missing the ‘normal’ school life. Why? Because there is an abundance of things to miss: student-made coffees, school sport, the various clubs, chess lessons I was receiving from ākonga in the library, and the many weird and wonderful stories that young people have, just to name a few. When school resumes at the LCŌ site and classes are full and noisy again, I think this experience will help me appreciate just how lucky we are.