Zoom school: Teacher edition


Elke Teichmann

A group of Castilleja teachers comes together on Zoom to celebrate

Whether you love zoom school or hate zoom school, we can all agree on one thing: It can be awkward at times. As students, we have our own share of awkward moments. Sure, we can now eat in class, but we also might feel the need to turn off our cameras to spare our peers and teachers from seeing us slurp up ramen. Sometimes when we’re talking, our video freezes and somehow it always happens when you’re making the weirdest face. But, as I sat in advisory one day, I started to wonder what it would be like to be in my advisor’s shoes. Mr. Lowell sees a grid of teenagers sitting back in their chairs, wearing hoodies, and displaying somewhat of a pained smile on their faces (maybe that’s just the seniors because of college apps.) Kind of intimidating if you ask me!
So, I interviewed him about what it was like leading an advisory over zoom. “It has been good, and my Advisees have made it easy. As Seniors, they know each other, and I know most of them since I have had most of them in class before, so it was easy to interact from the start. It continues to work week to week because my Advisees are great about being willing to talk and offer ideas for check-in themes and topics to discuss. I love my Advisory!”
Since Mr. Lowell has taught most of his advisory in the past, he knows us all pretty well. But, for classes he’s teaching this year, he hasn’t gotten the opportunity to meet most of his students! “It is exciting and fun! I enjoy getting to know students over the course of the year. It is always difficult at first to gauge whether students are understanding a lesson, and this is even more challenging in the Zoom environment. So I try to encourage my students to speak up and to make them feel safe doing so. I remind them that if they are struggling to understand something, then probably others are too, so it is helpful to the group to ask and not an interruption.”
When I asked what Mr. Lowell loved about teaching in person versus what he loves about teaching over Zoom, here’s what he had to say: “Seeing the students together. The joy they share when they are together is energizing. Seeing them help each other learn and discover makes the in-person class a lot of fun. On Zoom, I love the breakout room and chat. Breakout rooms allow students to collaborate and learn from each other, and the chat is another way for students to ask questions during class either of the group or of me privately. The virtual backgrounds are a fun way to express individuality.”
This might sound kind of selfish of me, but for a while, it didn’t occur to me how different the distance learning situation is for teachers. While teachers often seem all-knowing, it’s not like they can just pull experience from the last global pandemic they were in! They’re just as lost as we are! So, students of Castilleja, I encourage you to unmute yourselves from time to time. For the teachers’ sake. Ask about their day. Tell a funny joke. Unmute to laugh at their jokes. (Ok, maybe that’s a little over the top.) Whatever you do, make sure to thank your teachers for their work and the effort they’ve put into making school as fun as they can for you.