Teachers adapt to obstacles and benefits of distance learning


Itzel Leon

Some teachers express difficulty in balancing their life responsibilities while adapting to the changing circumstances of distance learning, though many also acknowledge its added advantages.

On Sep. 21, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) announced that schools will remain in distance learning for the rest of the first semester thus causing both students and teachers at Bonita Vista High (BVH) to work and attend online classes from home for the rest of the 2020 year. This shift in learning platforms has particularly impacted teachers across BVH. A challenge that some teachers have dealt with has been the inability to see students’ faces during class, which disables teachers to receive necessary feedback from their students to help the class function smoothly.

“[My students] put on their little icon and I’m not able to see if they’re paying attention. They could probably be in the kitchen and have the computer going; I feel that it’s hard for me to ask for feedback,” Regular Biology teacher Alberto Aguilar said.

As Aguilar mentioned, a common roadblock teachers face is trusting that their students are actively paying attention during live class meetings. Maintaining a connection with students has become especially hard when teachers do not see their students’ faces. However, Physical Education teacher Heidi Arciaga elaborates that this issue of being unsuspecting with students goes beyond synchronous live sessions. Arciaga expressed that she is also concerned with regard to student integrity and accountability when it comes to the work assigned for asynchronous class time.  

“The biggest challenge is being able to know that students are actively being active in their everyday lives and doing the exercises that they are logging to me,” Arciaga said.

Additionally, International Baccalaureate Environmental Systems and Societies and Accelerated Biology teacher Jennifer Ekstein mentioned that she’s been experiencing technical issues causing her to rely on students to help overcome various obstacles.

“My laptop sometimes has issues during presentations. I’ve had issues [where] I can’t present any type of video and audio, so I have to have somebody else share it for me,” Ekstein said.

Although distance learning causes problems for teachers, Aguilar explains that there is an advantage that comes with distance learning. He describes that the main convenience for teachers is no longer having to drive to work, but rather be able to stay in the comfort of their own homes.

“In terms of transportation [distance learning has removed] the hassle of driving to work or driving on the streets. [I think it’s easier] in terms of transportation and time,” Aguilar said.

Furthermore, Ekstein agrees with Aguilar and believes a major benefit of distance learning is the ability to work from home and be with her family, most especially with her children.

Well, I have two children so I am watching them grow up before my eyes. If my kids need help, I’m there for them,Ekstein said.

However, Ekstein expresses that being home with her children while trying to work can also be a struggle; mixing her teaching and personal life can cause a lot of stress on her. Ekstein highlights that it can get difficult to balance her role both as a teacher and a parent. She prefers to have a physical boundary between her work life and her home life.

“As a parent, I’m stressed out because I’m trying to do my job and I’m trying to teach my kids [at the same time],” Ekstein said. “But I think when everything is said and done, and it’s safe to go back to the classroom, I prefer the classroom.” 

In addition, Arciaga states that she feels as if distance learning has also caused her to gain more knowledge on the lessons she teaches her students. Arciaga describes how she feels as though she is able to connect with her students more as well as teach her students further about certain sports.

“It’s really challenged me as a teacher to even personally learn more about the history of the sport and different strategies [with]in the sports [I teach my students]. [With distance learning,] I’m able to spend more time with my students so [we] can [all] learn more about the sport,” Arciaga said.

Despite missing being in her own classroom, Ekstein believes it is important to remember that COVID-19 will eventually pass. Ekstein understands that it can be difficult for everyone to be under these difficult times, yet she remains hopeful that the pandemic is not long-lasting and looks forward to having the opportunity to see her students when BVH reopens completely. 

“I think students should know we’re not going to be in this [pandemic] forever. We are going to come back and I will hopefully be able to see [my students]. This will be over,” Ekstein said.