A DAY IN THE LIFE OF VIRTUAL TEACHING 

HISTORY TEACHER, LENA NAMNUN

CLASS OF 1995

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Today's new Pandemic normal may remind you of English required reading that catapulted you into the futuristic worlds of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984

 

Perhaps yesterday's and today's most daring science fiction writers foresaw the signs of a deadly virus that would claim our normalcy and force teachers to teach and students to learn glued to computer screens.  

Class of 1995 and Frankford's History teacher, Lena Namnun took time out of her busy virtual classroom schedule to share this brave new teaching world with Frankford-Alumn.com.

"They keep saying, they need to open schools.  We're open.  Our kids are learning.  The buildings are closed, but we are open.  Our students are learning very important life  lessons and people skills they would not have learned in a traditional school setting."

During this unchartered journey, she found benefits in this daring new learning arena.

"The benefits of virtual teaching is--(a) you get to know students in ways you haven't experienced in the past.  Behind a screen gives students more courage to speak out.  (b) It gives me the ability to reach students in a way I didn't before.  (c) It also allows kids more flexibility in getting to class."

What are the drawbacks?

"Administration was trying to force virtual professional development, but some teachers needed to learn basic log-in procedures.  (a) Not all of us were at the same technological speed."

"Another drawback, (b) I'm a people person, so not being able to read body language is difficult, because students, including my special education students, are not required to turn on their screens.  Unfortunately, we often don't see and read their faces."

Namnun cites another drawback (c) as the lack of engaging and connecting with other students outside of the class.  In Google Classroom, only students assigned to a class are invited.  There's a list and each class has its own meeting code.  Teachers have to make sure that only those students are getting into their assigned virtual classroom.

"With 23 years of teaching under my belt, I'm able to adapt.  I feel bad for first year teachers.  Some of them have never been in front of a classroom as a solo teacher.  I'm able to adapt with what I've already done in the past to make it work."

"As a history teacher, I see how students can now understand what happened after World War I's quarantine, and how it took two years to get back to some form of normalcy.  For the first time, students get it, because they're going through it.  Back then, they didn't have TVs and technology to escape stressful situation."

How are you engaging students?

"It's much harder without observing body language and facial expressions.  But every class has a different personality. 

Some like to study the battles, while others might prefer to think about the economics of a situation.   They all look at the same set of factual information about history, but each class seems to look at things from a different perspective."

 

The most recent thing that students really enjoyed was their project on the Harlem Renaissance.  They were able to research and present information on names they previously heard, but really knew little about.  As part of the project, students had a choice to do one of three things (among other mandatory assignments). The first choice was to research critics of a selected artist.  The second choice was to find modern artists inspired by their chosen artist, and the third option was to create their own piece of work in the same style as their selected artist.  It was amazing to see how many students have such talent.  They really blew me away with their artistry!"

"It's so hard to judge online.  Therefore, in my lessons I give them options and flexibility to do things that interest them.   For example, when we were studying the Harlem Renaissance, I gave students an opportunity to create their own works; and give contemporary critiques of modern artists who inspired them."

Namnun says she has become closer to students on a human level that didn't happen in the traditional learning environment. 

 

"A student can ask to talk to me in a chat room, where they can talk about anything on their mind.  I've had students discuss careers,  They're so desperate for that human touch."

"Some students live in shelters and group homes and are more comfortable watching a recorded class than live."

Namnun also points out that Frankford's sports teams and school activities are struggling.  "You have almost no interaction with students not in your class.  It's difficult getting teams and students involved in activities."

Hybrid teaching is slated to start April 5th, but there are more logistics to work out.  "Classrooms can only have so many people.  There has to be sufficient ventilation and we're dealing with a limited amount of electrical outlets."

Can you tell if a child is lost, or having difficulty with a particular lesson?  

"Most of my kids are comfortable with our learning environment.  It took a while to build a safe and secure culture.  What help is working as a team.  I've reached out to other colleagues.  Together as a staff, we pitch in to help each other be successful.  What's great is having my husband, Juan, (Frankford's Physical Education and Health Education teacher) to talk things over with.  If he or I don't understand something, we walk each other through it."

 

"...So yes, schools are definitely open and the children are learning."

EDITOR'S NOTE:

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. ... The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40.

 

Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.  

 

Sounds familiar?

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