Teaching This Way Is Hard Work!

Screaming young woman standing isolated

This week I have been analyzing the engagement strategies I am using at the college level to acronymous and synchronous teach. I’m not going to sugar coat it, and some of you have probably been doing it longer than me, but I’m going to say it anyway, this is HARD work! When I speak to students I’m not sure where to look for starters. Sometimes, I looked at students on Zoom, then I would feel as if I was ignoring the students in front of me. Then I would look at in classroom students, only to see the Zoom students staring at me. I wanted to move! I know that accomplished teachers use space to activate learning, ensure engagement, and to take stock of what is happening in the classroom.

However, if I got up I would have to take time to move the camera, and the camera doesn’t move when I move so it’s stuck in one place. Instead of moving, I broke teaching rule #1 for myself and stayed planted. Here was the other issue I faced, I wanted to break students out into groups, but the feedback was horrendous. While I’m sure there is an easy fix to this. I was stunned at the amount of feedback, then it froze me into inaction. I just did something else instead. So, here is the conclusion I came to at the end of my class, one in which several of you may have already reached some time ago. This teaching gig is difficult. It takes a bank of skills to pull it off. But I also know, as an accomplished teacher, that I am reflective. I wanted to share some strategies that I am going to try the next time to see if they work. 1. The camera can’t be changed unless I do it manually.

So, I’m going to control the effort I put into things because that is all I can control. I’m going to sit sometimes, stand in front of the room sometimes, and move the camera other times. But I want to be systematic about it. 2. When I want to do break out rooms, I think I can shut off the Zoom sound, and ensure all students have headphones. If this doesn’t work, however, I have a back-up plan, because right now a back-up plan is necessary. 3. I’m going to not worry so much about who I’m looking at and when. I’ll have to let this piece go for now anyway. Instead, I have decided I will do a roving shift of vision, such as I would in the classroom.

While these may not fix all of my issues, and I certainly have a host of other things I need to work through, such as better engagement strategies, how to encourage discussion, and increase strategies to encourage student learning instead of student completion. These are a few action steps I can take for now. How about you? What obstacles have you ran into, and what steps have you taken to minimize the issues?


Dr. Austine Etcheverry

I started my educational career as a 1:1 paraprofessional for a student who was blind and had a cognitive impairment. After this amazing opportunity, I decided teaching was my passion. In 2007 I became a certified special education teacher and taught 5th – 8th grade resource. Throughout my career in education, I have held various leadership roles such as a technology coach, an exceptional needs coach and an IEP coordinator. Three years ago, I decided to begin pursuing my National Board Certification and was fortunate enough to achieve in December 2018. I currently have the privilege of being the principal in the Avondale Elementary School District at a school for students with an emotional disability. I have my own social media company where I write and create dental blogs. I have also had the honor of publishing articles in a dental magazine as well as published a young adult science fiction series. In December 2018, I became a certified yoga instructor and recently completed my Doctorate in Education Leadership and Administration from Aspen University.

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