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S2 Ep2: Teaching Through a Pandemic with Anne Marie Owings

With our January theme being “How is Covid19 impacting education leaders and teachers?”, we are excited to have a conversation with Anne Marie Owings, a 5th-grade elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania. Anne Marie has been an educator for 32 years (wow!!), teaching at various elementary schools at both the 5th and 6th-grade levels. With a short stint as an Elementary Guidance Counselor from 2004 - 2008, but because she missed students and because of her love of being a classroom teacher, she returned to the classroom in 2008. She shares with us her personal experiences with how teaching, learning, and ‘school’ in general have been impacted by the Covid19 pandemic

Schools around the country have opened in various ways – remote, hybrid, face-to-face, asynchronous, synchronous – the list is long. Anne Marie shares the different ways her school has structured teaching and learning and how it really is a challenge to constantly change how you teach, keep the social distance rules, address students who are physically there while also addressing students there only there via the computer. We discuss these different models of teaching and learning, as well as the complications that arise from these different models.

We discuss the issues of privacy and safety of students during distance learning. This includes cameras on or off for students, which impacts student engagement, student attendance, bullying, and assessment. Issues of keeping track of students – where are they during class or are they remote or face-to-face on any specific day, and how do you assess and make sure that the students aren’t cheating or using other tools if you can’t see them.

Anne Marie discusses many aspects of teaching and learning that are challenges and concerns that so many people probably do not even consider. The ‘privacy’ issue, the pressure of concentrating "on camera" while someone is watching you, not really knowing what students are in your class or not. With social distancing protocols, what about lunch – where do the teachers eat? She discusses how difficult it is to teach certain subjects, because of remote learning, due to the limited hands-on experience that is so needed for elementary students.

The personal impact of how remote/hybrid teaching on every aspect is something Anne Marie speaks to from the heart. She talks about how observations and evaluations have changed. The minute-by-minute learning on the fly about what works, what does not work, and just the trial-and-error approach to tools and strategies makes teaching even more time-consuming and stressful. How to know if students are engaged, and what tools might help provide that engagement feedback. The safety concerns are a HUGE factor, especially as schools are considering reopening completely face-to-face, despite the rise in Covid19 cases, and hearing a teacher talk about all these things from a personal perspective really sheds some light on why ‘opening schools’ is not as easy as it sounds if we want to keep educators and students safe.

Anne Marie mentions several tools that her school/district uses. Here are links to find out more about these:

**UPDATE: Since this episode was recorded, back in December 2020, Anne Marie made the decision to retire early, effective January 2021, due to her concerns for her safety and health, the enormous amount of pressure, extra work, and the stress of having to go back to full face-to-face teaching despite a rise in Covid19. Thank you, Anne Marie, for your years of teaching!!

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