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ALUMNI SUCCESSES: Online learning tries parents, teachers

ALUMNI SUCCESSES: Online learning tries parents, teachers

By Matthew Balderas
Bridge Ombudsman

Published Monday, Sept. 21, 2020

Think back to when most people received their first mobile phone. If it was 1973, it was probably as long as a briefcase and so thick it wouldn’t even fit in a pocket.

In today’s modern world, people often say that children are born with technology in their hands, but did that prepare them for online learning?

2013 alumni graduate, Juan J. Martinez Jr. who currently works at Communities in Schools in San Antonio as the Physic Coordinator, shares his students’ and teachers’ struggles.

“Many teachers [and] many educators thought students were going to simply be able to transfer from at-school to at-home very easily, but they are struggling big time,” Martinez said. “They can handle their social media, but actual software that a high school or university might use, such as Blackboard … they are lost. They have no idea how to use them and were not prepared.”

For teachers, teaching during a pandemic is just as challenging as learning during a pandemic. 

“Teachers are wanting to help the students in any way possible because they understand that online schooling isn’t for everybody,” he said. “But they are also struggling on, ‘How am I going to get through to the student?’ and then on top of that, it’s not as simple as them being in the classroom and being able to help a student during office hours or at lunchtime to sit with them because they can’t do that anymore.”

Some teachers are also having to walk the path of both educator and parent and have children in the same boat as their students.

“We have some teachers right now that are currently working from home and working on campus, but they also have their own kids that are also saying, ‘Hey mom, hey dad, I’m not understanding what the teacher is wanting me to do,’ or ‘I don’t understand how to login to Zoom,’ or ‘I’m having technology issues,’” Martinez said. “So aside from their own students having that issue, they also have that same issue with their kids, so it’s like if they’re split in two.”

While the novel coronavirus pandemic has changed the way in which Martinez and his colleagues operate day-to-day, he is grateful to have a job unlike millions of Americans who are currently out of work. Recent college graduate, Kathya Cavazos was not so lucky.

“After graduation, I already had a job planned out for me and I really thought that I had it set for at least a year or two until I figured out my next step,” Cavazos said. “When COVID hit, I thought it was just going to be a quick moment in time or slight adaptation to life, but it ended up being bigger.

“I went from working full-time 40-50 hours a week, to working from home 30-35 hours a week, to my position being completely dissolved.”

Rather than letting COVID-19 get her down, she saw this as a sign and opportunity to do something she’s always wanted to do.

“Before I had that job, I was thinking about opening my own business, which would be a boutique, as well as getting my teacher certification,” she said. “With the money I was receiving from unemployment, I decided to start my boutique and I also used some of that money to pay for my teaching certification.”

With so many jobs being impacted, she saw teaching as a way to keep going during the pandemic, but so did so many others. 

“Right now, it’s crunch time. A lot of people got laid off, so I’m definitely not the only person that got a teaching certification,” she said. “So right now, teacher jobs are very, very, very, competitive, so it’s definitely been a struggle.

“I’ve submitted applications to different schools and school districts at the beginning of July and I just received my first call for an interview.”

Current TAMIU student Jerry Lerma, English major with a certification in secondary education, just began his student teaching, but the classroom he is teaching in is not the one he expected. 

“Right now, since its virtual teaching, my environment is at home,” Lerma said. “But the overall classroom environment that we have established on the Google classroom app that we are using is lecture-based and the students can chime in whenever they want to.”

As much as lecturing online is the same as lecturing in a classroom, the social aspect the classroom provides just isn’t there. 

“I don’t want to say you’re socially stunted, but it’s harder to make connections,” he said. “Teaching to their strengths, teaching to their weaknesses is still difficult because I don’t know their likes, dislikes or their learning styles because we have to stream it to Google Classrooms.

“Getting them to engage in a way that is beneficial to them is still hard to do over a computer screen.”

With schools potentially operating in full swing come October, this makes him fearful, not for himself, but for those around him.

“I would not want to risk getting COVID-19 because I would still come back home and I have parents who are over the age of 65 and it is just a risk,” he said. “I would really want for school districts to have the right precautions in place.”

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