There is no doubt this pandemic has had an enormous impact on education, and nowhere is that more true than in Waldorf schools, where technology has never been a part of the classroom experience. In this Faculty Feature blog series, we ask faculty questions about this transition first to on-line teaching and then pivoting back to in person and what impact this has had on them. In today’s blog, we feature Michelle Blazewicz, Grade 5 Class teacher.
We checked in with Michelle prior to returning to campus, and this is what she told us:
TWS: Give me a brief overview of what the transition from on-campus teaching to distance teaching has been for you.
MB: It has been very difficult and time consuming. Most of all, it has been an exercise in frustration management for myself, the students, and their parents. I have tried to hold the picture for myself and my students that in challenging times like these, we have to take a deep breath, and remember that we are cultivating adaptability and flexibility in ourselves. As teachers and students we cannot control the strength of the internet connection or stability of the Zoom environment, but we can do our best to eliminate the other noise and distractions in our environment to really listen, pay attention, hone our reading and communication skills, and do our best to follow along.
TWS: What was the most challenging part of this process?
MB: The variability in student devices, the age of the technology, and the nuances of what apps, browsers, or settings the students’ devices have, which produces a myriad of challenges for students to access the content. This has meant countless hours devoted to troubleshooting technology issues and converting files to numerous formats that have to be sent to students in a variety of ways to ensure they can access the information.
TWS: What do you miss the most about teaching in person?
MB: Dynamic, meaningful conversations that apply the curricula to our lives. The children find it very difficult to stay focused, on task, and engaged in the work to the degree that they do in person.
TWS: What are you most proud of?
MB: Despite the incredibly long hours and challenges, my students were able to connect with one another and begin forging their adaptability/flexibility skills in distance learning.
TWS: Is there anything you’ve learned from this process that you can take back into the classroom when you are together again?
MB: The importance of zeroing in on the most essential aspects of our work together, letting go of the nonessential, and trusting in the resiliency of humanity.
Once her class returned to campus and she had some time to adjust to being back, we checked in with her again. Here are her answers this time:
TWS: Now that you are back, what changes have you seen in the students and their work?
MB: The students are better able to take in the story content, remember the details, and engage in a dynamic recall and class discussion of the themes. The students are also more engaged in learning, which ultimately supports their capacity to follow through on assignments. The children have expressed their gratitude for being together again and their ability to start training for the pentathlon with Ms. Johnson. As they break their records for the running long jump, their faces light up, and they are filled with pride.
TWS: What is the biggest challenge you’re facing being back on campus during a pandemic?
MB: Exhaustion and overwork has been a constant since the pandemic began. Being on campus with the children provides nourishment for my soul. Witnessing their growth, their “aha” moments, successes, listening to their laughter, hearing their insights, and seeing their bright eyes in person make it all worth it.
TWS: Are your students finding it difficult to follow safety protocols, or are they adapting well to them?
MB: The children are just so thrilled to be on campus together that they have adapted to the protocols quite well.
TWS: What do you enjoy most about being back in person?
MB: That’s hard to say because there are just too many. I certainly love hearing them play games together at recess.
TWS: Do you have any advice for parents whose children have not returned yet but will be returning soon?
MB: My advice would be to ensure that the children have a great selection of comfortable masks that fit properly. It really makes a difference in their capacity to communicate while wearing the mask and the ease with which they can sustain effectively wearing them.