This year has most certainly laid its fingerprint on all of us. It has affected every area of life, from home, relationships, school, work, leisure, and areas which few had given thought to before. Routines and freedoms were put on hold for much longer than anticipated.

As I began student-teaching at Erie Middle School, the state had chosen to transition to fully online learning positivity rates diminished. This resulted in meeting students in a web meeting for the first 20 minutes of their scheduled class time. The school made the decision that no supplies would be picked up from the school, which translated art students would need to utilize whatever supplies they had at home or on hand. Since the first week was scheduled planning, I adjusted my lessons to reflect what the students were experiencing by using what was available to them. 

At first, students were reluctant to think outside the box, but eventually hit a rhythm and began turning in artwork that was thoughtful and responsive to the prompts. I introduced a five-question self assessment, which again, students originally showed reluctance, but improved after completing the first one. It helped me to assess understanding when we physically weren't able to see the students or their work in person.

One of the important elements of the time spent online, for me, was humor. Many students were stressed, anxious and slightly depressed from isolation and other family and friend factors. The host teacher and I attempted to be as upbeat as possible, connected with students while waiting for all the come into the virtual classroom. I compiled a list of cheesy art jokes, one for each day, to lighten the mood. By the end of my time there, if I didn't begin with a joke, students began to remind me.

My highlight of the time spent at EMS was a project I assigned to the 8th grade 3D class. I challenged them to be creative with their materials, but more importantly, I gave very open-ended instructions on how to build their own paper automata. I showed a video of an artist who spends his time building incredible automata, and discussed the melding of engineering and art. I explained my criteria, and told them they would experience failure in order to build more problem solving skills and creative thinking. They had very little supplies to chose from. I was blown away by what many of the students turned in and the sense of achievement they felt after "failing" and reworking their mechanisms. It was a proud moment.

The most difficult part of online learning were those falling through the cracks. Because we recorded the meeting for anyone absent or sick, the students' cameras were to be turned off. This left us wondering whether students were engaging during the synchronous class time. During a staff meeting, another teacher suggested letting the students know we would be calling on them randomly to answer questions. If students didn't answer back, we would count them as absent. This strategy helped to some extent, but there were still those few students who were not turning in any work or attending online class. Most students were adapting as best as they could to the changes, but we worry about those who were silent. The majority of parents were supportive, helpful, and glad to receive a call if we were concerned.

Teaching During Covid-19