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Follow the teachers: Preparing for the unusual school year

Educators are still trying to navigate how to teach online
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 13:09:54-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Parents aren’t the only ones trying to figure out the new school year. Teachers are in the same boat, also dealing with the emotions of not being able to go back to the classroom right away.

ABC 10News is following four teachers throughout the new school year, as they navigate the ups and downs this strange time brings.

Dawn Harrison is a first grade teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. Teaching is her passion.

"One of my favorite things is the lightbulb moment when they’re in the process of learning something and it clicks for them and you’re there to witness that click,” Harrison said. “I love their hugs. I love hearing about their day.”

That personal interaction is gone for now with teachers preparing to go virtual for the new school year. For Harrison, with no biological children of her own, she views her students as her own children.

“It’s devastating, not to get their hugs, their wanting to hold your hand, even the tugging on your shirt,” Harrison said.

On top of the emotional connection, there are other questions when it comes to teaching first grade. “How am I going to teach six-year-olds to read via a computer? How am I going to teach them to think mathematically through a computer?” she asked.

Harrison’s challenges are different than what her husband faces. Rick Meads is a teacher at Eastlake High School. With the older students, they are much more technologically savvy. “They’re going to be a lot more easily adapted,” he said.

He teaches digital media, drama, and theater. He, along with so many other teachers and students, felt the sadness of having to cancel big school events. “The worst part was we were supposed to mount a major production at the school with the theater class and we had to cancel that. That was very disappointing for a lot of the kids,” Meads said.

With the Sweetwater Union High School District starting Monday, Meads is preparing to adapt all of his lesson plans. For his classes, like drama and theater, he is going to focus on writing for the beginning of the school year. “In the past, we have written full-scale musicals [and] we’ve done plays,” he said.

Kelly Martin is a sixth grade teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. She also faced unique challenges going online with her students.

“With adolescents, it’s a little different. Nobody wants to turn their camera on. No one wants to talk in front of anyone, everyone has their hoods on, so getting them engaged is a different challenge,” Martin said.

All the teachers are struggling on when it is safe to go back.

“I think there is a misconception that teachers don’t want to go back to school. We all want to go back to school,” Martin said.

With roughly 3,000 students at Eastlake High School, Meads sees the challenge of how to keep students social distant.

For Gina Chavez, a fourth and fifth grade teacher in the South Bay Union School District, she wants to know that students and teachers will be protected.

“I want to know that we’re provided with PPE (sic). I want to know that we are going to have our classrooms sanitized,” Chavez said.

She wants parents to know that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that many people don’t realize. “I’m in the middle of an eight-week course helping me to get better at teaching online,” Chavez said.

“Somebody recently told me they’re calling it a ‘Coronacoaster’, and I think it’s really a good expression of how we’re feeling,” Martin added.