Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

Only 15 Students Showed Up for Online Class. Then, Teachers Got Creative

When COVID-19 closed school buildings, teachers worked to exhaustion but also felt proud
By Lora Bartlett — July 26, 2021 1 min read
A teacher shares her pandemic experience.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“Give a lot of grace.”

That was the one overriding guideline handed down to teachers in Leanne Edwards’ Texas district in spring 2020.

“The only real requirements were that teachers had to post our assignments in Canvas [Learning Management System] for the students to get by 9 a.m. every Monday and that we schedule one Zoom time a week with our students,” the middle school teacher explained. “One hour-a-week period is what we were supposed to offer. They called it the minimum. … But I don’t know any teacher that did only that.”

Edwards (not her real name) and her colleagues prepared multiple 7th grade interactive Zoom lessons a day and worked to draw students to those class sessions, spending weekends recording lectures and creating online materials. But attendance lagged.

One hour-a-week period is what we were supposed to offer. But I don't know any teacher that did only that.

The district made student attendance optional, passed policies disallowing failing grades, and limited the introduction of new content. These policies had the unintended effect of discouraging student participation.

Of 380 7th graders in Edwards’ school, which draws from both suburban and rural areas, only 15 showed up for even one online session a week. That is, until the 7th grade teachers launched a weekly two-plus-hour trivia lunch game based on the curriculum. Suddenly, 180 7th graders were joining the class, laughing and engaging with the lesson content. Still, the remaining 200 students never attended any online meeting.
Edwards describes her school as a place where it is safe to be a “true teacher.” In general, she added, the district gives teachers a voice and a lot of say in their curriculum.

Edwards ended the 2020 school year exhausted but feeling uplifted by the work she and her colleagues had done in an emergency.

“I left school in May on a good note,” she recalled. “ I felt like we had done everything that we could given the situation that we had. Like I felt fine, like we did it.”

More About the Series

Opinion Bartlett1 KNOW THYSELF LINCOLN
Lincoln Agnew for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion What We Learned About Teachers During the Pandemic: A Series
In this series, a researcher shows how teachers went from making school happen to having little say in planning for an unprecedented year. View the full series and the researcher’s methodology here.
July 19, 2021

Related Tags:

Events

Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum What Will It Take for Schools to Get Better?
Find out what educators and leaders can do to incite lasting and productive change that will make a difference in the lives of students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Validated by EdWeek, Not by My Administration
"I feel like public school in America is broken," writes a former teacher in this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Most Americans Support Raising Teacher Pay. But There's a Partisan Rift
Public support for teacher pay raises is at its highest level in at least 15 years, an Education Next survey found.
6 min read
Illustration of woman jumping across piggy banks.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Opinion Searching for Common Ground: Rick and Pedro Go to the Movies
A few education-themed films aptly capture the fact that teachers are people with huge challenges in their lives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession From Our Research Center 'Over It': Most Educators Say They Won't Mask This Fall
But teachers are more likely than administrators to keep masking, EdWeek Research Center survey data show.
7 min read
Image of a face mask on a school notebook.
Steven White/iStock/Getty