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Middle school teacher Danielle Howell Roland talks about the positive aspects of virtual learning

March 2020 brought with it so many changes to the educational system that it has been hard to keep up. As of August 2020, I teach middle school virtually and unlike many people, I think it has been a positive thing for students and teachers.

I miss giving my students hugs and seeing their new shoes and new hairstyles. I love watching them becoming some seriously cool teenagers. While I am not in the building to see last year’s crew of kids in the hallways, I do get to see more growth on the part of the students that I am teaching this year. At the beginning of the year none of us knew how to do grid view or present screens or formatting, but now we are pretty much experts at all of those things. In fact, I would say that this year, my middle school students are more tech savvy than any I have taught before.

Teaching online has allowed me to see into the lives of more of my students. I get to see their siblings and their pets and the posters on their walls. I have met grandparents and stepparents and foster parents. I have more a sense of who these students are than when they told me stories in class. I can ask them about their favorite colors and see how they decorate. We talk about their love of anime or football, and as they show and tell, they demonstrate their love of those things with what they have surrounding them. One student is a car expert, and I would never have known that if he had been at school. By taking his computer outside to show me the work he completed on a car he was rebuilding, I was able to tailor a lesson just for him.

With the failure rates from Upstate districts being touted as an emergency, my students and I are ignoring it all and plugging along. I am being more creative with learning lessons and breaking them apart to make it easier for every student. I can do more individual tutoring for more students since I can log in at 6 in the evening.

 I have contacted more parents in the last month than I would have while being in a brick-and-mortar school. Most of my parents are reporting positive things. They are seeing fewer incidents of bullying; students can do more creative lessons and they like having their children at home.

Inevitably, there are some growing pains. There are some students who would be better served being in person and face to face. I work long days and it is harder to separate work from home. Logging off at a specific time each evening is essential to self-care. But the positives outweigh the negatives and if I had to choose, I would teach virtually again next year.