NDSU student teachers are finding new ways to connect with and engage students after most school districts in the region recently moved to virtual learning.
For example, senior Amanda Nelson, an English education major, is student teaching at Bismarck High School. She is planning and teaching four classes online to a total of about 100 students. The change to a fully-online curriculum was made due to new social distancing standards brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Nelson’s students have reacted well to her teaching style.
“To make online learning more interesting for students, I’m going for a blended approach,” said Nelson, who is from Big Falls, Minnesota. “This consists of students creating videos, video chatting with me and other students, looking at slideshows I have created and collaboratively editing assignments on Google Classroom.”
According to Nelson, maintaining connections with her students is a critical element to the delivery of online lessons. She said a solid relationship is key to both effective teaching and learning.
“I encourage students to video chat me during my office hours and reach out to me with any questions they have,” she said. “I also have used this opportunity to write very detailed, personalized feedback on every single student's assignments. I do this not only to maintain and continue to build on the relationship, but to let them know someone positive is there to listen and encourage them through this tough time.”
Meanwhile, senior Cole Walters is student teaching at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo, where he teaches 11th grade U.S history and 9th grade World Geography.
“Currently, I am helping create instruction and materials for 130 students,” said Walters, who is majoring in social science education and is from Grand Rapids, Minnesota. “I feel pretty lucky because we were doing a lot stuff online already. For example, most of our assignments were turned in online. Students also had materials presented to them online, whether it be notes, readings or PowerPoints. So, the adjustment has not been a big change for me.”
The difficulty, according to Walters, is trying to remain in contact with his students and to assure them that he is available as a resource.
“While losing the typical student teaching experience is disappointing, I have tried to look at this experience through a positive lens,” he said. “I believe this unusual experience is creating a more prepared version of myself than if there was no COVID-19 pandemic – this experience has better prepared me to overcome adversity and any other potential virtual learning situations.”
That’s the best hoped-for outcome in a unique and challenging situation.
“We are so proud of our student teachers for their flexibility and dedication as they continue with their placements in this unique and challenging time,” said Stacy Duffield, professor and program coordinator in the NDSU School of Education. “They are learning a great deal as they collaborate with their cooperating teachers to transform lessons to a distance environment.”
Perhaps Nelson best sums up the current experience of NDSU student teachers.
“Although this pandemic came out of nowhere and is a bit scary, I am trying to stay positive and be grateful for getting to experience such a great learning opportunity,” said Nelson, noting she recently accepted a full-time position at Bismarck High School. “I'm eager to see how the rest of the semester goes.”