The Other Side of the Zoom Call
Being a student during these slightly apocalyptic times is hard, but what about being a teacher? In addition to dealing with the same stressors we are—slightly awkward Zoom calls, piercing headaches from being online all day, and constant feelings of lethargy—teachers have been asked to restructure their entire curriculums and make the transition to online school as seamless as possible. Unlike students, they don’t have the option of muting themselves for the majority of the day or coming to class in pajamas that barely pass as normal clothes. On top of everything, teachers are dealing with their own vastly altered lives and possibly difficult circumstances. So, with all of this in mind, how are our teachers?
Like students, teachers are finding it very hard to go without the small day-to-day interactions that shape our Packer experience.
Darrin Fallick, Director of Athletics and Dean of the Class of 2023, explained, “My personality and my job are very contingent on my personal interactions. Zoom can be personal, but it’s not the same.”
Those who know Darrin can confirm that he’s extremely outgoing and friendly, whether he’s catching up with his students over donuts or cheering on the sidelines of a basketball game, so it’s not surprising that he’s struggling with the loneliness of Zoom. But as sad as he is about the early end of the athletic season and not seeing his students everyday, Darrin is finding ways—such as posting senior shout-outs on Instagram and organizing lunches with his freshmen—to cheer students up and provide moral support.
These casual interactions are certainly important for social reasons, but they also contribute to the productivity and unity of a class.
History Teacher Sandra Fahy feels that informal conversations “help [her] check on student understanding and contribute to the vibe and momentum of the class.” She believes that not being in the same physical space also hinders the dynamism of class conversations and makes them feel more static.
In regards to revamping curriculums, some teachers are integrating the global pandemic and its implications into their syllabi. Science Teacher Kerry Kline, along with others, is teaching her students the science behind different viruses. As someone who understands how viruses work, Kline “tries to look at things more objectively, though that isn’t always possible.”
Kline, like many students, is quarantining outside of the city, and is currently in Peru with her husband’s family. The country went on lockdown the day after Ms. Kline arrived, so she has spent almost all of her time at home. It seems that, generally, the Peruvian government is imposing more stringent restrictions than ours, though, as “they’ve been more strict about where you can go—the hospital, grocery store, and pharmacy—and what you can buy. Families can only take two bags of rice each, for example.”
Although our community has never been further apart distance-wise, a new version of closeness has developed out of the ‘we’re all in this together’ sentiment of online learning. We’re sharing things that never would have been shared under typical circumstances. Advisories have bonded over bedheads and exchanged recipes, breakout rooms have thrown random groups together, and Zoom lunches have given students and teachers an opportunity to laugh at each other’s quarantine anecdotes. Math Teacher Cameron Lemley even had students participate in a show-and-tell, and gave his classes a tour of his idyllic childhood home in North Carolina.
As we finish out the year, we should be cognizant of how our teachers are being affected by our new reality, and know that they, like us, have never done this before and are trying to figure out what works. As students, our first instinct might be to expect our teachers to be calm and collected role models during these stressful times. While we can definitely look up to our teachers as adults we admire, we can’t expect a level of robotic perfection from them in a time that completely upends normal life for everyone. Once this is all over, deeper student-teacher relationships and a closer community may emerge.