High school teacher’s first year is quite the balancing act 00:00

Women at Work Teaching in the ‘new normal’

High school teacher’s first year is quite the balancing act

In Vanessa Fisher’s first year as a special education teacher, she has faced the challenges of remote and hybrid instruction while adapting to the demands of students, parents, the community and the union.

Did You Know? Tap to expand
Based on the data available, in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in February 2021.

Rainier Harris 

Vanessa Fisher started teaching high schoolers in September 2020. In her first year teaching, she has had to face the challenges of remote learning and making sure her students get what they need. Despite these setbacks, her love of teaching and her students empowered her to adapt to the new Covid reality.

Vanessa Fisher

Right now, I’m teaching for Salem public schools in Salem, Mass. I’m a special education teacher, and I work with seniors who are at risk of not graduating in their fourth year. So we do a lot of work with my students on credit recovery, current year work in also in a therapeutic and supportive environment. 

I really liked working with the students, helping to see them succeed and be successful. And just being that person for them that they need. 

I really started it because I was these students. I was a student at Salem High School, and I dropped out in my second year, and I was lucky enough to be motivated to at least get my GED. And then I went to college, and I kind of took it from there. 

We were originally, my particular program, was full time in person. But due to the needs of the students, we offered more the remote hybrid online option as well. 

I will say just based on my position in my classroom, I have maybe eight students all together, and they’re with me for all subjects. So the engagement in general is pretty spotty, whether they’re in person or remote. I think the biggest challenge is based on my situation, having that consistency of engagement with the class of students, because when they are all together, they interact very well. But because some students are doing credit recovery so that they can graduate this school year, there’s a lot of individual needs. And sometimes it’s very competing. Like if I’m doing instruction for math, which every student needs, you know, I can’t stop to support the other student individually in that particular moment. 

I will say though, when my students are engaged remotely, I do tend to have more of their attention. Because it’s kind of more focused, if they’re on their phones Zooming in, they’re only seeing the reading that I’m doing, or the PowerPoint and they’re not distracted by other people on their phones. 

On my end it has been a huge learning curve to teach remotely because there’s so much more on there to do and upload. And so it’s a very tedious process. So it takes a lot longer to get it all online than it would be just to go to the printer and make copies of a packet for students to complete.

Teachers, I feel are really doing the best that we can. And I feel like in general, just something for people to be aware of is that I’d never seen myself as you know, yeah, you send your kids to school, you know, we act like babysitters. No, we want to teach your child and that we really do care about your children, and we want to see them learn and grow and be successful. And definitely having the patience with us because we’re really trying under such ever-changing circumstances, whether that’s remote or in person. We’re also adapting to the demands of the people, the demands of the unions, the parents and the students. And then the remote learning model in general is a huge learning curve. And so just understanding that we’re here, it’s possible to return to school safely and operate in a hybrid model. It’s just every community I guess is different in every union is different. And so how can we balance out those needs with safety concerns and to protect everybody on that?

Rainier Harris 

For iPondr, I’m Rainier Harris.

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Rainier Harris

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Episode Teaching in the ‘new normal’