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eLearning has become a new process for teachers everywhere. The spread of the coronavirus has led to school closures and forced educators to come up with new strategies to produce learning content to share with students online.
For art educators, this can be particularly difficult. Our students have varying access not only to technology, but also art supplies in general. The changes we’ve experienced over the last couple of weeks have thrown us for a loop. The job we love so much feels very different now, and it has us going through a range of emotions.
As news of the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the U.S. came in late January 2020. We all started to hear discussions and rumors about the virus spreading. Throughout much of February, headlines continued to tell us more about the virus and its impact around the world. As March came along, even our students were shifting their conversation topics to the coronavirus. While many may have made light of the situation and shared jokes and memes, there were several other students who were legitimately concerned.
In the week’s leading up to your state or city’s decision to close schools, you may have discussed the possibility of implementing eLearning for your students. The first reaction may have been to scoff at the notion. “We’ll never go that far.” “Not here.” “It will have died down before it comes to that.”
We denied the possibility of change because it’s something none of us have ever experienced before. We had no frame of reference to compare it to. In an effort to keep calm or hope for the best, many districts did not lay out a plan ahead of time. We were all in a state of denial because we didn’t want it to become our reality.
When your city or state officials announced that schools would be closed, you may have found your next reaction was anger. Many felt that the closures and orders to stay home were too extreme at first. The uncertainty of what would come next stirred up fear and anger.
Many of us were in the middle of a great unit, or just started a new quarter, or had a project planned we were really excited to share with students. Essentially, in what seemed like a moment, all of that work and planning was thrown out the window. In a matter of days, and in some cases, hours, teachers across the country were asked to create new learning content and deliver it in ways they had little to no experience in doing.
We may have felt this way as a result of not having adequate information about what would be expected of us. Many teachers did not have the time to process what was happening before scrambling to figure out what would be best for their students. This uncertainty and time crunch pushed us to our limits. Sometimes when our limits are tested, we are not at our best. Anger became a natural emotion in a chaotic situation for teachers across the country.
In chaos and frustration, we always want to try and change the outcome. Suddenly we all become experts and know what we would have done differently if we were in charge. Schools rushed to make eLearning arrangements for all of their students in a matter of days. There were bound to be some mistakes or oversights.
It’s easy to be judgmental or critical while looking back. As educators, we’re often most critical of ourselves. After your first week of eLearning with your students, you may have been harsh on yourself. Some of the activities you had planned might not have worked well for the online format. You may not have considered just how many students would be without resources or how to motivate them outside of the classroom.
Looking back at that first week, you may have spent time thinking, “Well, if I had only done this… or that…” We wish we could go back and change the outcome. We bargain with ourselves and hope we can make it right with the next eLearning lesson, but secretly fear we may have blown it entirely.
With all of the negative self-talk and changes to our routine, many teachers slip into a feeling of depression. We all got into teaching because we love to interact with our students. As art educators, we thrive off the creative energy in our classrooms. We see students’ work progress from an initial idea, a creative spark, to a fully-developed masterpiece.
Now we find ourselves teaching in isolation, without that student energy. We post or email content out and receive images of student work as a result, but we miss out on all of the steps in-between. We’re used to changing lessons on the fly in response to student progress, interests, and feedback. eLearning has stolen the joy of teaching for many of us.
Aside from our own feelings of depression, we also think about our students and worry about their well-being. Each of us has students we know are struggling at home during this time. We worry if they’re getting enough to eat, if they’re healthy, if they have any support at all at home. You probably have a few students who were anxious and overwhelmed even before this pandemic closed their school. You can’t help but think about how they’re doing.
All of these concerns, along with updates about the virus continuing to spread, are tough for all of us. We start to feel agitated, helpless, and depressed. Many of us have found our life’s purpose in teaching, and this delivery method of eLearning feels inadequate compared to the joy we feel while in the classroom.
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Many of us have started to realize this will be our new normal for at least a little while longer. At the heart of our individual teaching philosophies, we all want to do what’s best for our students. Now that we’ve dipped our toes into creating content for eLearning, we have a better idea of what’s expected, what worked, what did not, and how we want to improve future lessons.
Although we aren’t in our traditional classrooms, we can still help students develop their skills and express themselves through visual art. We can have discussions, share historical and contemporary art, and pose drawing prompts to challenge our students creatively. We’ve accepted our eLearning reality, and now we’re ready to thrive in it.
The Art of Education University has put together a number of resources to help you navigate your way through eLearning. We all want to develop lessons and activities that don’t just fit the limits of eLearning, but also engage and inspire our students to keep creating!
How are you approaching eLearning at your school?
What has been your students’ response to eLearning?
What lessons or activities have you found to be successful for eLearning?
The NOW Conference is the world’s largest online conference for art educators! This one-day event (join us live or watch on-demand for an entire year) features 20+ inspiring and innovative TED TALK-style presentations covering topics that are relevant right NOW in Art Ed!