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Teaching During Covid-19

Recently, I saw a post (I can’t remember who even reposted it for citation purposes) that discussed the language we are using during our online teaching. The post brought up an interesting point that I want to dig deeper into. What do we call what teachers are doing right now? Is it online learning? Is it distance learning? Why am I so hung up on what it’s called? 

What we name it matters. Just as with all language, the vocabulary we choose to use when discussing a subject can affect the process just as much as the physical change itself. The term online teaching or online learning carries a connotation of presence. Presence implies that teachers are live and lessons are synchronous. Distance learning, on the other hand, carries the connotation of sameness. It implies that the only difference between the classroom lessons and those online is the distance between the teacher and the students. Neither of these terms accurately defines what is actually happening in the virtual classroom.

So what are we doing? What should we name this chaotic phase in our lives? As the post stated, I think it should be called what it is: Teaching during Covid-19. There are many reasons why I think this name should be applied ubiquitously, but the main reason is that it changes the unconscious expectations people have of what is happening, especially the teachers who are on the front lines. 

Calling it Teaching during Covid-19 takes the pressure off every stakeholder. From the teachers who are spending extra hours converting lessons to the parents and students who are struggling with the anxiety of understanding a way of learning they never signed up for. The circumstances of what we are doing right now couldn’t be more different than a teacher who regularly teaches online courses. Teachers are being expected to do this job, from home, on horribly slow wifi networks, with families at home with them, noise in the background, makeshift workspaces, and the list goes on. On top of that, our students are facing similar challenges as they are also quarantined at home. For icing on the cake, add in the extra anxieties of a global pandemic, money concerns, lost jobs, etc., and you have something entirely separate from teaching online or distance learning. 

In the grand scheme of things, names may seem trivial. Yet, rarely, if ever, is that the case. 

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