Catherine Gregos M.Ed
Bell Creek Academy/Charter School Associates
Catherine Gregos M.Ed, Biology/AP Biology Instructor
Pushing the Reset Button on Teaching
August 24, 2020- That was the day that I had to make the world start spinning again for my students- a world that was paused by coronavirus. That was the day that I had to put a sense of normalcy of back into the lives of my students. As a teacher, you pride yourself on engaging and inspiring your students as they learn- but what will this look like in the classroom with both in-person and online learners? Regardless of their years of experience, every teacher is stepping into the classroom for the first time, meeting the demands of these unique circumstances with new and innovative ways to inspire and teach anyone from anywhere.
Although I have been teaching for thirteen years, I had to push the reset the button on my instruction. I asked myself, on my first day of teaching, what did I want my students to know from my lesson? How did I want them to feel? The answer was, that I wanted them to feel inspired to learn and have confidence in me – that I would be there to guide and support them. Although this has always been my approach, I recognized the tools in my teacher toolbox will have expand to meet the current needs of my students.
I researched free virtual reality apps and was amazed at how many resources were out there designed to innovate learning. I found an incredible one in which body organs such as the heart, liver and brain to jump off the computer screen or paper as a virtual organ in three dimensions for both in-person as well as virtual learners. Students can hold a virtual beating heart in their hands, manipulate the organ, look into the valves and chambers, and even learn what an unhealthy heart looks like. I grouped in-person and virtual learners into small breakout groups and they were able to communicate and learn together once again. However, when they scanned that simple 2D image and an augmented reality heart came beating to life, I heard a roar of excitement from each group. I heard a lot of “wows”, “that’s cool”, “lets try this” and of course laughter. At that moment, I wasn’t teaching in-person and online learners- I was teaching one class.
Inspired by this success, we had a virtual town forum in which student groups explained what the coronavirus is, how it spreads, how vaccines work, what is herd immunity and outlined facts versus fears. Each group presented while using a 360 virtual model of the virus that allowed students to view the surface and then go inside to see the genetic material. One student said they were listening to the news and they understood what the epidemiologist was speaking about and was telling me why she thought a specific vaccine would be the first to become available. The students really enjoy making their own product sharing with others, being aware of the world around them, and finding their own voices in response to current events.
I went from feeling apprehensive about teaching this year to looking at this as an opportunity to expand my teacher toolbox and teach outside the box, always remembering that students need to have assurance and confidence in me. More than ever teaching is a work of the heart, and heart is what we intend to give each and every day, taking lessons from the past while exploring future technologies. We will emerge as even better versions of ourselves as teachers and leaders in the classroom (wherever that may be).
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