by Elizabeth "Libby" Keady, ICJS Teacher Fellow

This is not how we have been trained to teach. This is not how our courses have been designed.

This is not what we “signed up for.” This is not “how we do it.” Nonetheless, circumstances now compel us to transform ourselves from classroom teachers to asynchronous virtual learning providers in just a few days. Now, we are teaching through pandemic.

The unexpected closure of Maryland schools for at least a few weeks due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put even the most experienced teachers at our private, Catholic 6-12 girls school to the test. In a community such as ours, one with a longstanding one-to-one student laptop program, a robust online learning management system that already connects students with their teachers virtually, and a recently opened new Innovation Wing, we still face challenges to keep the college preparatory learning going for an indeterminate length of time.

The workload is immense. We are adapting lesson plans, trying out new assessment tools, finding fresh resources, converting materials to digital, teaching ourselves the latest technology tools, collaborating remotely with colleagues on Zoom, grading online work, staying on top of our email inboxes…all the while praying that our internet connection holds-up.

Amidst the challenges, these exceptional circumstances present opportunities. We are forced to rethink everything.

What is the most important thing I want my students to learn in a virtual lesson?

If the research tells us that the average student’s attention span to listening to a virtual lecture is 5-7 minutes, what should I say in those precious minutes?

What skills do I want my students to demonstrate in the virtual learning environment?

How can I connect with my students authentically when I cannot see them, observe their body language, receive live feedback, and crack jokes with them on the fly?

What’s the value of teaching world religions in the time of global pandemic?

Years ago, before I was a teacher, I heard a longtime teacher say, “Students won’t remember most of what you teach them, but they will remember how you made them feel.” I don’t know if this is true or not.

But, I do know how I want my students to feel. Interested. Curious. Challenged. Capable. Heard. Safe. Accepted. Loved. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed now that we are teaching through pandemic.

Elizabeth “Libby” Keady is a campus minister and theology teacher at Notre Dame Prep, a Catholic, independent, all-girls school in Towson. Keady was a member of the 2019-20 ICJS Teachers Fellowship.

Opinions expressed in blog posts by the ICJS Teacher Fellows are solely the author’s. ICJS welcomes a diversity of opinions and perspectives.