I still dress like a professional. I still drive to my office. I still start school at 8 am. My students and I have devotions, a time of worship, and prayer. We talk about the day’s assignments and anything else that might be on their minds.
The difference, though, is I am the only one in my classroom. I meet with my students through Zoom. Staff meetings, administrative meetings, and board meetings are all virtual. I eat lunch by myself, sit in front of a computer, and spend time trying to find creative ways to reach out to students and parents.
Keeping students on task is hard. Some students thrive without supervision, others don’t. I send a lot more texts and emails to parents to keep them informed and connected. Just like the students, some parents are succeeding, and others are not.
As a coach to my students, I feel like I have one hand tied behind my back. Normally, I am in the ring with them, cheering them on. Online learning takes a lot of self-discipline. Add a whole house of distractions—video games, movies, social media—and who wouldn’t have a hard time focusing?
I miss the face-to-face connection with my students. I can’t read their body language or facial expressions, especially when they only share a black screen with their name on it. It feels institutional and impersonal.
I do like the fact that I meet with every one of my students throughout the day individually. We go over math problems and anything else they need help with. I get to see family pets, hear their siblings in the background, and once in a while their mom or dad might pop up on the screen.
I also like the fact that my day is a little more flexible. During my lunch break, I can go for a walk. If I need to quickly meet with a parent between classes, that is no problem. Grading assignments from home without carrying books and strewn papers around is nice.
COVID-19 has brought with it instantaneous flexibility and creative thinking. I have been stretched in ways I never could have imagined, and so have my students. All in all, I think we have done pretty well. I am proud of myself, my staff, and my students.
My students and I also agree that COVID-19 has given us more time with God and our families, and this is something I count as a priceless blessing. Yes, we are in the middle of a storm, but we get to be in the boat with the Master Teacher.
Michelle Velbis is principal of Springs Adventist Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.