Student Teaching in a Pandemic

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, student teaching internships and positions have changed for Baldwin Wallace Education students.

Just as BW has adopted a hybrid class schedule, many elementary, middle, and high schools have adjusted their schooling methods because of the pandemic. This has changed the format of many student teaching positions, creating new challenges for Education students.

Emma Lober, a senior English major and Adolescent/Young Adult Education minor, has been teaching high school freshmen fully online so far. The biggest challenge for her: forming a relationship with the students.

“I sometimes feel like we are teaching to dark rooms and foreheads, not actual students,” said Lober.

Engaging with the students seems to be a common struggle with the online format. Jackie Lamb, another senior English major and A/YA education minor, has been teaching high school seniors online. She said the environment makes students who already aren’t eager to participate in class even more hesitant.

“When students are hidden behind their screens and comfortable on their beds, they are way less inclined to participate than if someone was actually standing in front of them,” said Lamb.

Although engagement has been an issue, both Lober and Lamb said that most of their students are handling the work very well.

“Attendance has been really good… students seem to be fairly positive about it and are often better at adjusting than some teachers are,” said Lober.

However, students’ handling of online school does not stay consistent through all grade levels.

Kayla Heinlen, a junior Early Childhood Education major, has an internship in a second-grade classroom. Her class was fully online for the first two weeks, but now is on a hybrid schedule. She says that for her students, being online was very difficult.

“Every time I was on Zoom with the students someone would end up having a breakdown and crying,” Heinlen said. “Students are struggling to use their Chromebook by themselves while their parents are at work.”

Student teaching in an online setting has presented an entirely new set of challenges. But some schools are conducting classes in person, which comes with its own set of struggles for student teachers.

Rachel Sladky, a senior English major and A/YA Education minor, has been teaching her eighth-grade classes in person. A challenge she has found has been gauging student understanding and emotion while students are behind plastic desk shields with their masks on.

“One of the big things they teach you in Education courses is to read the students facial expression to gauge how your lesson is going,” Sladky said. “It makes it hard as a beginner teacher to gather this information when I can only see half their face.”

Although student teachers have their worries and unprecedented challenges, they stay hopeful and persistent in their work to help educate. Sladky provided a takeaway from her first few weeks of being in the classroom.

“Students want to learn. A teacher needs to help their students in whatever capacity is necessary at that moment. Whether it’s accommodating individual student needs or accommodating social distancing, a teacher’s job is to help a student succeed.” She continued, “You hear a lot about how these are unprecedented times, but at the core the goals are still the same. Social distancing makes things hard, but it doesn’t make things impossible to accomplish especially if you’re willing to keep an open mind.”