May 27, 2020 by Kathleen Brunelle
A Song to Remember
5 Things Teaching During Quarantine Reminded Me About My Students
As a high school English teacher, I am blown away by the resiliency my students muster every single day as they acclimate to our new learning platform and our new world. Of the countless student successes, one in my Shakespearean Theater class reminds me of five important student qualities that we sometimes forget in the craziness of our typical school schedules.
1. Students are Patient
As we all began to Zoom and Google Meet our way into our new “classrooms”, students patiently endured our technological missteps and blunders. My students were stuck in Zoom waiting rooms, encountered broken links, and manipulated multiple LMS platforms. Since they are creating a digital version of their theater production, they have also had to work with various editing programs and resubmit footage as I navigate the foreign land of film editing. They did so with supportive patience and smiles while they encouraged me from the other side of the screen because …
2. Students are Kind
Our class is a drama class. Many of my theater students, however, are amazing singers — especially my seniors. This year, we incorporated a special senior song as part of our production, and I wanted to make sure that students could perform their number digitally. As I googled my way through various choral quarantine videos, I was inspired and relieved. All I had to do was invite my students to a Zoom meeting, press record, and have them sing. Nice and easy — or so I thought.
I met with my students, they brainstormed song choices, I created a Google follow up form, and we were on our way! That’s when the emails began. One after the other, students wrote to inquire whether or not I wanted them to send me individual videos. I explained to them that I wanted everyone to be on the screen at the same time, so I did not want them to send me individual videos. They kindly agreed to do what I asked, but I started to wonder if I had been unclear. It turns out I was the once who needed instruction, which leads me to my next point …
3. Students are Teachers
As I pondered the meaning of these student emails, a final email arrived. This student informed me that I could not tape the song during a Zoom meeting because of technical issues with voices and lag time. She encouraged me to let students film themselves individually and then recreate the Zoom look and edit the voices together. At that point, I became the student. I wrote her back and asked her to explain. She responded by not only giving me written instruction, but she also included two videos. One was a tutorial and the other was a sample (which, as a visual learner, I really appreciated). This leads me to my fourth point …
4. Students are Amazing
Once my student taught me what to do, the other students sent me their footage. As I bring in each individual video, I need to listen to their voices repeatedly to make sure they are in sync throughout the song. This practice gives me the opportunity to admire their talent all over again. I am amazed by their courage to put their voices out there, their resiliency as they spend their senior year separated from their life-long friends and peers, and their spirit as they face an unknown future with hope and a new form of camaraderie. These feelings lead to my final thought …
5. Students are Unforgettable
I have been working with most of these seniors for the past four years in various classes and clubs. As I populate the Zoom grid with the faces I have come to know so well, I feel a mix of emotions. I feel sad that their senior year has been cut short, but mostly I feel privileged to have worked with such a talented and remarkable group of students. Though the quarantine has caused many challenges and disruptions to education, it has also reminded me about what is most important of all — my patient, kind, amazing, and unforgettable students.