For teachers, online instruction is a nightmare

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Posted September 18, 2020 | By Terry Kinder, Guest Columnist

I am a middle school teacher, and I’m at my breaking point. We are drowning under the weight of the expectations for online learning.

I invite you to join me for this daily train wreck. Sit beside me, watch and experience this nightmare that has become my daily life. You know those nightmares teachers get before school starts each August? The nightmare where everything goes wrong and nothing you planned goes as it should — even with weeks of preparation you completely fail.

Every teacher experiences this nightmare before the school year begins. But then we wake up with a sigh of relief and realize that it was only a dream. That none of those awful things happened. That everything will be OK.

That nightmare, however, is now my daily life. I literally live in that nightmare. I can’t escape it. Each day another level of insane expectations are placed upon my shoulders. I will eventually crack under this pressure and say I cannot take it and quit.

I am not alone. Hundreds of other teachers within this school district feel the same way. This is unsustainable.

Microsoft Teams is not what you hoped it would be or what any of us expected, specifically Teams meetings. I ask that you meet with a large group using Microsoft Teams and see for yourself. I ask that you try to take attendance, try to see who is on camera and who is not. Monitor all the screens even though you can only see a few of them. See what “large gallery view” is like and attempt to keep track of all the people on the screen. I’d like you to witness and experience what it’s like to “teach” on Teams. It’s nowhere close to the ease of Zoom.

I spend more than half my class troubleshooting technology issues. I am mentally exhausted from the endless technology glitches that I need to solve on the spot with kindness and empathy. I am not an IT expert. Even with the unimaginable number of hours I have spent watching YouTube tutorials on all things Microsoft Teams, I am still not grasping the half of it. I read forums and troubleshooting blogs in the evenings. I spend my weekends taking multiple two-hour courses offered through Microsoft, designed for educators to learn Teams and OneNote. I am truly trying to master this program.

You are fighting to eliminate state testing, however; you still require district pretests and quarterly assessments. You have control over this choice and are choosing to give them. You are adding more to our already overflowing plates. Where is your empathy for teachers and students?

Testing almost seems pointless for online students because the tests are invalid. Students could cheat during the test and skew all of the data. If the scores are invalid — and you know this is a very strong possibility — then what is the point of giving them? If you think it is necessary to test the students, have students come to the schools to test in person if you want reliable and viable data.

I am trying to be successful, kind and understanding. I am doing my very best. But my best will not be enough.

Not enough for what? For that wonderful teacher evaluation that dictates my pay alongside of my state test scores at the end of the year. How can I achieve highly effective on the teacher evaluation based on the current evaluation rubric when students log in whenever they want, attend meetings from the food court in the mall, leave meetings every day to run errands with their mother, or to complete chores, or walk their dog, or go eat a late lunch. When toddlers are running around, babies are screaming, parents are yelling and cursing, or if kids are being kicked out of meetings every few minutes. If students are watching Netflix, playing video games, or making TicTok videos instead of learning.

This is not a classroom. It is a nightmare. It is not a conducive learning environment. Students cannot be successful under these circumstances.

At what point does my own mental sanity matter? When will someone put an end to this madness, speak up for teachers, and recognize that change must come now?

Terry Kinder is a civics teacher at Belleview Middle School.

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