How Teachers are Adjusting to Distance Learning

Story by Mercede Odegaard 

Well, here’s a situation we never thought we’d be in. The COVID-19 pandemic is something future generations will likely learn about in their history classes, while we’re living in it now. As students, this has been a difficult time of transitioning and adapting to the new normal: staying inside, not seeing friends, and distance learning. It’s easy to get caught up in our own problems right now, especially with trying to learn from home, but we must remember to think about the complement in our situation: our teachers. They’re going through exactly the same things we’re going through, and they’re trying their best to make this situation doable. As someone with two teachers for parents, I’ve been able to see their side of this story, as well as my own. 

My mom, Julie Odegaard, is a teacher at West Central Humboldt Elementary School. She’s in the title department, where she works with K-5 students who need extra help in math and reading. For her, this situation has been nothing short of stressful, but she’s found a way to stay positive, not only for her, but for her students as well. 

“We’ve been trying to keep in contact with our students as best as we can via the internet. We use Google Hangout or Zoom to contact our students, but it’s just not the same as working with them in person. We don’t have access to our usual materials that are pretty much essential in the way we teach. When teaching a student on a Google Hangout call, there’s more room for confusion. I can’t see what my student is working on, I can only see them and hear what they’re telling me, which is obviously not ideal. While it can be frustrating at times, it’s also rewarding to know that my students are continuing to work on their schoolwork and using the tools and strategies that we’ve taught them throughout the year. The teachers at my school just recently held a teacher parade, where we all drove our cars around town and waved to our students. We miss them and we miss the day-to-day interactions with them, so it was heartwarming to be able to see them, even from a distance.”

On the flip side, my dad, Troy Odegaard, teaches in the math department at Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls. While my mom helps elementary students, my dad helps kids retake a math course they have previously failed to complete. His situation is also totally different from my mom’s because he’s working with high school students rather than children. For him, the biggest struggle has been getting his students to even respond to his emails. 

“Distance learning is proving to be difficult due to the fact that everyone is adjusting. Us teachers have to figure out how to make this work, but our students have to meet us halfway. I’ve been trying to communicate with my students, but they don’t understand that they also have the responsibility to communicate back to me in a timely manner. Not only is that frustrating, but it’s also been challenging to convert my classroom and my mode of operation. I got into teaching because I love interacting and creating relationships with my students, so it’s been hard not seeing them. I miss seeing the joy on their faces when they do something great or succeed. While this time has been challenging, it has also been fun learning something new. I hope this whole process helps me become a better teacher.”

Please guys, be courteous and email your teachers back, this is just as stressful for them as it is for you. We’re all trying our best to make the most of this situation, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. And while this whole situation certainly isn’t ideal, we need to remember to stay optimistic. I know, easier said than done, but we have to try. When you wake up each morning from now on, start your day by thinking of a few things you’re thankful for and some things you’re looking forward to doing once this whole situation is over. It’s little things like that that can really make a difference in how you view your day. Don’t give up hope, stay strong, and remember, we’re all in this together.

Troy and Julie Odegaard
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