Faculty members share what it’s like to teach from home

Faculty+members+share+what+it%27s+like+to+teach+from+home

Casey Ver Meulen, Staff Writer

St. Pius X students and faculty began a school year like no other with new procedures, routines, and changes. One of the most notable differences is the option for students and teachers to attend school from home via Zoom. We all experienced temporary virtual learning in August, September, and October when we began the year on a hybrid schedule so we’re familiar with it, but what’s it like to be a teacher in this same position?  We interviewed all nine of the teachers to find out more about the positives and negatives of teaching from home. 

Mr. Spencer Brown, English

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

I’ve been a teacher for over 26 years, and no two days are ever alike; that’s one of the reasons I love my profession so much. That hasn’t changed this year, but being unable to visit with students and colleagues in the halls creates a giant hole in each day. I miss being able to greet current students at the classroom door, and I miss seeing former students in the hallway.

What does your workspace at home look like?

We have a small home, but my wife, son, and I are all set up in different rooms so we can avoid stepping on each other’s digital toes. My workspace is actually my music room. Since floor space is at a minimum, I use a stand-up/sit down desk that rolls back and forth; it has two shelves, so I can keep just about everything handy.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

Definitely at home, though that’s only because I’m not actually handling stacks of paper as I normally would in the classroom. I generally try to avoid clutter no matter where I am and find it harder to concentrate when things are messy (or if I can’t find them). That said, I pine for the “organized chaos” and “piling system” of my classroom. I will not miss vacuuming dog hair out of the music room.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

Since I don’t have a commute at present, I’m able to exercise in the mornings. My son and I walk two of our three dogs before 8 a.m., and my wife and son walk the other two dogs a bit later. During 6th period, I make lunch for my son and have a few minutes to eat with him (and sometimes my wife, depending on her schedule)–so that’s a giant plus in my day.

On my other planning periods, I’m grading or planning. If I’m updating my website or entering grades, I’ll sometimes listen to a record. Sonny & Cher’s “Live From Las Vegas” is a highly underrated gem of the vinyl world.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

Excellent, though I’m currently snowed under with grading.  As a family, it took us all a while to adjust to the virtual schedule last spring. This year, things are much smoother. I don’t like being stuck to a screen for almost all of my schoolwork (teaching, grading, corresponding, and planning), and my son is the same… so if we eat a quick lunch, we can squeeze in a couple of hands of UNO, build with Legos for 10 minutes, or play with the dogs.

Mrs. Jessica Barclay, English

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

I definitely do not enjoy teaching virtually more than being in the classroom with my students. My favorite part of teaching is the daily interactions with my students. Even though I am still able to discuss with students virtually, I am missing out on those spontaneous moments in the classroom.

Also, now that most students are in the classroom and I am home, I am unable to effectively have my students participate in Socratic discussions, which is one of my favorite activities to do in the classroom.

What does your workspace at home look like?

Luckily, I already had a home office prior to teaching virtually. My office is pretty standard, but I do have two monitors to help me teach effectively through Zoom.  I also have a lovely view of our neighborhood from my office.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

Overall, I do feel much more organized teaching virtually. In the past, I have had to teach in two other rooms and often move to different locations for planning. Since I no longer have to do this, I have more time on my hands. This additional time has helped me to stay organized throughout the school year.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

I feel like my time management is pretty much the same as it was. However, it is easier  for me to work through my lunch, since I am not moving around the school.

Mr. Mike Scirocco, English

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

I would rather be in a maskless classroom than be teaching virtually. But I am determined to not let this situation stop me from bringing my passion and energy to every class.

What does your workspace at home look like?

I work my magic from my study with mahogany shelves filled with books and family pictures and my gentle and loyal dog, Max, by my side.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

I am more organized at home; I can use my entire house to place student work.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

As for my day, I rise at 6:00 am, pour myself a cup of Italian roast, and head out to the garden for about 10 minutes of prayer and meditation. I then move to the basement for my morning workout. On my spin bike, I will either read a great book or watch a powerful film, always looking for inspiration and wisdom that I can share with my students.

Mr. Scott Carter, Social Studies

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

It has been fine, but I do not enjoy it as much at all and would like to come back.

What does your workspace at home look like?

My kitchen.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

I have had to become more organized being at home and will carry that over into when I come back.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

Basically the same as a day at school. I Zoom teach the same way I would in the classroom 90% of the time. During my off periods besides eating lunch I am grading, prepping, or handling my coaching responsibilities.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

I have had to manage my time very vigorously since I am doing my job and dealing with my own kids during the day. I need to check in with them in between every class.

Mrs. Brigid Bartholomai, Science 

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

It has its pluses and minuses. The plus is that the technology always works! The minus is that sometimes my jokes get lost in translation. I guess that is why people don’t laugh. It can’t be that I am no longer humorous.

What does your workspace at home look like?

Well, fortunately I have a son in college who is away, so I’ve taken over his room. I can use a big desk with a closed door and no one bugs me until they open the door. My husband brings me Starbucks every day and I hate to admit it, but there are six Starbucks cups on my desk right now.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

You have to be organized to be a teacher, so I would say my organization level is the same.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

I get up at 7 a.m., pray and prepare for the day. At 7:57 a.m. I log on to see [my long-term sub] Ms. Rummel’s smiling face with my students. My students and I are both so lucky to have Ms. Rummel in the classroom. She has taught chemistry before and has an excellent reputation. How many students can say they have two chemistry teachers? She and I make a great team.

In between all of my classes, I have to help my son Max with his virtual learning. My husband and I take turns doing this. He has scheduled all of his meetings to take place when I am available to help Max, so during 2nd and 3rd period I am usually dancing with Max and listening to his classes. I sit under his desk and poke him whenever I think he is not paying attention.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

Well, since my “planning periods” are spent trying to keep Max on task, I end up having to work from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. doing my grading and planning.  In the early afternoon before dinner, I usually spend that time Zooming with students who need help.  I feel like I am constantly answering emails. I actually really love getting emails from my students and parents. It is just another way to connect. 

I look forward to the day that Max will be back at school so that I can return to school. I am beyond blessed to work in such an environment that supports my family and me. I am actually covering MORE chemistry this year than I did last. Crazy!

Ms. Theresa Johnson, Theology

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

Truthfully, I miss teaching in person. It’s more difficult to have class discussions online. I also love the camaraderie with my colleagues at St. Pius X and the opportunity to attend daily Mass.

What does your workspace at home look like?

My workspace is pleasant. I am working at my dining room table. It has piles of materials that I use for teaching, but there is enough space for everything. I can rest my eyes by looking out the window at trees or at art on the walls of my home.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

I love order, harmony, and creativity. This is a different way of teaching for me with a different form of organization. Since I cannot be physically present, I’m especially attentive to structuring my lessons so that they will be meaningful to all my students.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

I rise at 4:30 a.m. to have time for breakfast, prayer, journaling, and a morning walk. Then, I prepare for the school day. First, I read and respond to emails. Then, I set up the computer online resources for the day. I generally record my lectures on Screencastify to help FTV and absent students keep abreast of schoolwork.

If there is time during Period 1, I review, grade, and post student work. I log on Zoom and teach Periods 2-7, with a break for lunch during Period 5. During Period 8 until 3:30 p.m., I check and respond to emails, grade student work, and prepare for the next day.”

I take a break for tea and a snack, play with the cat, and walk outside. Sometimes, I read something–mail or a new book or magazine. Then, I prepare supper. For me, cooking is fun. I definitely get away from the computer and relax.

After supper, I put in another hour of schoolwork or connect with one of the virtual groups I have joined. These are dear friends I’ve known for years as well as new acquaintances. I keep in touch with friends and family via Zoom, email, and telephone. I love to read great literary and spiritual classics before I retire for the night. The cat perches on the armchair while I read. It’s a positive way to end the day and to prepare for the next.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

I tend to bite off more than my students and I can chew. Virtual teaching and learning means that less is often more. We don’t need long hours before a computer. It’s tiring. We all need time to be human and to be nurtured. I endeavor to limit content so that we can absorb it in creative and meaningful ways. Faithfulness to keeping the Sabbath for Mass online, rest, healthy recreation and time spent with others (even if only by phone) helps me to set limits for myself and my students.”

Mrs. Silvia Garcia, Spanish

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

I do enjoy in person way more…I miss my students a lot. I love the daily interactions, the jokes and the opportunities to get to know each other better. Also, I can check on them way better than from far away.

What does your workspace at home look like?

I share my office space with my cat 🙂 who is always with me (my students know her already), but I have a desk and a table and notes everywhere with reminders, my laptop as well as an extra screen I bought from the school to make my job easier. I have some plastic organizers that help me with organization. I also have a board and a spin wheel I use to give opportunities to my students to speak.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

I think at home since the space is less so I am careful regarding what I have around (just what I need),  but in class it is harder to be organized.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

I am at my desk by 6:30 a.m. already checking and answering emails. I start at 8 a.m. with my first class By 10:36 a.m. I’ve taught my third class and I go for a quick walk with my dog, then I am back and I work one more hour or so. Then I have a quick lunch, normally working in front of the computer. I end my 8th period class by 3 p.m. and then I stay working until 5 p.m.-6 p.m. or so. When my daughter has volleyball practice and my husband takes her to her Tsunami club for it, I keep working until 8 p.m. depending on if I still have the brain to continue. The working hours are long, and teaching virtually is more work!

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

I am a very organized and structured person, so I do very well with time management. I don’t waste time.

Mrs. Millie Turek, Fine Arts (Chorus)

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

I am grateful to be able to teach them online from home and keep them singing during this time. However, I cannot wait until we are all able to sing together in person without masks!! I miss hearing them together. I have had to modify/change every way I have taught for the last 40 years. Fortunately, I like learning new things! And I cannot imagine a world without singing.

What does your workspace at home look like?

I enhanced my music studio at my house, boosted my Wi-Fi (using an ethernet connection is better than Wi-Fi), I’m using an audio box to run my digital keyboard and mic through my computer for enhanced sound when singing and playing, my iPad screen shares easily with Zoom, and I set up an old flat screen tv so I can see the students better.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

I have to be WAY more organized teaching at home! I explored technology and practiced this summer so I could make the most of teaching singing online. I have always tried to keep up with music technology but no musicians in the history of the world have ever rehearsed like this! My students are truly pioneers, and we are figuring it out as we go.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

I teach part time (2 classes – 6th and 8th) at SPX each day so I go on Zoom for both classes daily. That is the best part–seeing my students every day! Many other hours of the day involve making audio files, listening to their Flipgrid videos and Soundtrap tracks, and providing them feedback. Mixing the “choirs” takes up the most time–hours and hours and hours so they can hear each other together.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

Fortunately I love music and I love my students, so it takes up most of my day. And I don’t miss my time in the car commuting on 1-285!

Mrs. Cary Blackburn, Math

How do you feel about teaching at home so far? Do you enjoy it more than in person?

There are some benefits to teaching from home, but I much prefer teaching in person. The benefits are an extra person helping with administrative and classroom management tasks, the opportunity to use creative problem-solving skills and computer skills, and no commute time–so I have been given the gift of time. 

I was a computer programmer and systems manager before I started teaching. That job involved learning business processes and creating solutions to help people perform tasks more efficiently. I love being able to do work like that again. However, it is lonely and many tasks are harder to perform virtually. I have to work harder to be prepared for class. Things I could have done on the fly, I can’t anymore.

What does your workspace at home look like?

Currently, I am blessed to use my husband’s home office. I have a laptop with a docking station, four screens, and a wrap-around desk. It makes managing all I need to manage virtually SO much easier. I also join the Zoom class every day with my iPad and Apple Pencil. I can replicate teaching in the classroom with these tools. When my husband can work again, I will be using just a laptop and my iPad. It will make my work more difficult to manage when that happens. I attached a picture of my workspace.

Do you feel like you are more organized inside your classroom or teaching at home?

I am ultra-organized wherever I teach. I was blessed with this gift and am thankful that God gave it to me to use for His purposes.

What is a normal virtual school day like for you?

“I log on to Zoom at 7:30 a.m. each morning for tutoring. I teach my five classes via Zoom utilizing my iPad, and students practice problems in real-time with me observing their work via Classic Kick. I can write on their virtual whiteboards and they can help each other as well.

Mrs. Bowman and I found and tested this program over the summer, and it has been extremely useful.  I log back on to Zoom at 3 p.m. for more tutoring. Then, I take “home” (downstairs) my grading for the evening. The day wraps up around 9:00 p.m., but I do get a break for dinner and a workout. I also work on time to help my husband with his therapies. Another benefit of working at home is I can have lunch outside and with my husband.

How is your time management with choosing to stay virtual?

I’ve always been good at time management. I don’t really see much of a difference virtually. I do not have anyone to distract me, so maybe I gain a bit of time there as well. I did not choose to teach virtually; it is necessary to protect my husband’s health.