Online Learning? No Thanks.

As a 5th grade STEM teacher, I am comfortable with technology. My students complete assignments in google classrooms and I have one created for each content area. I am familiar with G suite tools, and several online instructional tools. So I felt prepared when my school district transitioned to online learning due to the COVID virus. My students and I were ready. I was surprised by one thing, though…

I didn’t like it. At all.

I miss the immediacy of the classroom. The quick observation that catches a student’s misunderstandings in the moment. The “you just forgot this one step” comment that puts math learning back on track. The search for a book like The Unwanteds because “Mrs. Thompson, it was SO good, but I’m done with the series.” The conferring, the turn & talks, the partnerships.

I miss the banter and humor of my classroom. Fifth graders “get” the hidden meanings of language and sarcasm. My students are just fun!

The “tell me again how you dyed your hair with Kool-Aid” (yup, that’s a thing!) How I always tease about not being invited when hearing about a student’s amazing trip. The three (at least) times a day that I ask kids, “Has anyone seen my glasses?” The sharing of the latest weird youtube video – “Mrs. T, you GOTTA see this!” The end of the day Star Trek hand sign and “live long and prosper” as kiddos walk out the door.

I miss the love of my classroom. The first tulips from a student’s garden, brought wrapped in wet paper towel. The slice of banana bread from a family’s weekend baking. The cheer that went up when we heard that our class collected the most money for Children’s Hospital. The magical silence when the overhead lights go off, the lamps go on and we sink into good books.

During online learning, I use Google Meet and Chat and Flipgrid and all the great tools that are available to help my students and I stay connected. I email each student each day just to say good morning. We all use comments and screencasts and it’s all wonderful that we have access and skills in these technologies. But it’s not the same and somehow we all know it.

I’ve learned a lot during online learning. I’ve learned to create experiences for students, not just assignments. There’s always a new technology tool to try out and learn. I’ll be better at blended learning and using technology to differentiate learning when this time in history is done. And I’ll be buying myself a better office chair at the end of all this!

I may not like online learning, but I have affirmed two strong beliefs I hold. First, I am extraordinarily blessed to be part of a profession I love. And secondly, that relationships are at the heart of it all.


Tami Thompson is a PEBC Lab Host and graduate of the PEBC STEM Fellows Program. She teaches 5th grade at Van Arsdale Elementary in Arvada, Colorado.

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