Remote-Learning From a Teacher’s Perspective


Maryam Abdella, Features Editor

Mr. Park, Orchestra/Strings

What are your thoughts on the remote-learning situation?

It’s not ideal, but it’s necessary given the situation we’re in right now.

The truth of the matter is there are some very problematic… concerns, if you will, that still need to be addressed. Some of our most vulnerable students are the ones who are most adversely affected by this pandemic, and… we need to keep them in mind as we make the most important decisions as to whether we come back.

We are into week 4 right now and I will tell you, my head feels like it’s still, just barely above water.

Do you prefer students with or without their cameras on? Why?

I would prefer students with their cameras on, primarily because the one thing that is sorely needed when engaging in instruction and learning, is the ability to actually look at each other, and speak to each other, and read each other’s mannerisms, and see each other’s smiles, laughs … it’s hard for me to gauge what you all are doing and how you all are engaging when all I see is kind of an avatar image.

There’s a big concern on my part for Beginning Strings, as we’re just starting to learn how to play … I can’t see what they’re doing.

[Some] might have the technology readily available, others might not. If there are some underlying circumstances or extenuating circumstances that disallows you from using your camera, I just need you to reach out to me, and if you’re comfortable with it, explain to me what your issue is and maybe I can help in some way.

There’s a big concern on my part for beginning strings, as we’re just starting to learn how to play … I can’t see what they’re doing”


What is your policy on late work in this situation?

In my [past] syllabus, it’s pretty put-and-dry. Your work should be submitted on time […] if it’s a day late I technically should be marking an A to a B. If it’s two days late I should be technically marking an A to a C.

[If assignments are late] more often than not, you aren’t penalized … I understand that this is a challenging thing for people, and you know me, I’m understanding and I’ll be flexible.

How do you keep your students engaged throughout/outside the class period?

I guess one of the issues with the video camera thing is I really don’t know who is engaged. You know, I ask questions all the time; I call people’s names, and I ask a question, and I ask that person to respond.

If you need to step away, I understand. Just type ‘brb’ in the chat so I know that you had to step away. 

How is student engagement, and how does it affect you?

For most students, I don’t have that visual cue. I don’t have that visual representation that a student is engaged, but the vast majority of students, when I ask them to answer a question, they unmute their mic and answer … very rarely, has anyone said, “oh, can you repeat the question?” Which, as a teacher, when you hear that you know that the student wasn’t quite engaged at that point.

There are so many very unique circumstances in everyone’s respective homes right now, that I’m very mindful of and trying to be respectful of and flexible with.

I need to ask myself, “if I was a… high school student during this time, and I was at home, and I had within arms distance all of the distractions that I occupy myself with when I’m at home,” I think it would be challenging for me to … trying to emphasize with what students are going through is a really important thing, a very critical thing for us teachers right now.

There are so many very unique circumstances in everyone’s respective homes right now, that I’m very mindful of and trying to be respectful of and flexible with”

How are you balancing both your home and school life? Compared to last year, how’s teaching from a remote setting now?

It was challenging in the spring. You know, first and foremost, I have three daughters and all of them were in various corners of the house, trying to find a space that was as least distracting as possible. I, too, was trying to find a space and so was my partner, my wife. Because she also teaches … that was definitely challenging. 

[I’ve been teaching from my classroom] since day one. I’ve been waking up in the morning and going to work like I’ve done for the past 20 years, and I stay here for the entire day in my classroom …

What advice would you give yourself a year ago about remote-learning?

I would say… understand that everyone is trying to figure this out – your colleagues, your families, your students… that being flexible, and being open to modifying what you do and adapting to the reality of the situation, is critically important.

School is so much more than just the homework, the tests, the notetaking. School is even more so about what happens in between classes – seeing your friends in the hallway, sitting with your friends in the lunchroom, playing foursquare afterschool, going to chess club, or just hanging out in the backyard of Northside. The community is most important and that’s what’s missing right now.