Teri Vance: Zooming into a new educational reality

I just finished teaching my first class over Zoom. I am by no means an experienced teacher — I teach one course a year through Western Nevada College’s Jump Start program —but it was quite an adjustment.

In some ways, class is just class. The medium can be irrelevant. In other ways, it is vastly different.

I teach a communications course, where we give speeches almost every day. On one hand, speaking over the computer made it easier.

You can have your notes open right in front of you, so you can check them without being so obvious as looking down at the notecards in your hand.

It also makes it easier to notice your own body language in real time. If you’re fidgeting or have a nervous tic, you can see it for yourself in the camera.

But there are drawbacks as well.

It’s hard to make a connection over the computer. It just is. Logistically speaking, you can’t make eye contact. To make it seem like you’re looking at the person, you have to look straight into the camera. However, if you look at the person, it seems as if your eyes are looking away.

One of the ways I have gotten to know the kids over the years is paying attention when they’re making small talk in class. That spontaneity is lost when all the students are sitting in their own homes, separated from one another.

I don’t know what the future of their education holds for them.

They may one day return fully to the classroom, or not at all. Likely, they will end up taking some classes in person and some online.

Even when the pandemic has run its course, education has probably been changed forever.

I was thinking las weekend during my drive to Elko about some of the ways technology has changed our life experience in tangible ways.

It used to be on long drives I would pull over at some truck stop and look through the bargain bins for CDs or even cassette tapes.

You’d find combinations of songs you’d never heard or hadn’t heard in forever on a greatest hits album or trucker’s jukebox.

That’s how I discovered Kitty Wells — on an album with Patsy Cline. I nearly wore that cassette tape out. It was my go-to mood boost.

But those days are gone. Change just keeps coming.

That realization made me feel a little nostalgic and somewhat melancholy.

Still, the things that matter will always matter. I was driving out to Elko to go to a wedding reception for a friend in Ruby Valley.

Although it was a socially distant, drive-through reception, showing up for friends matters.

Same with this class.

The students still showed up every day. Each one gained confidence and skills throughout the duration of the course.

They are heading into their future with all the promise and potential as any classes before them.

The world will continue to change around them, but I have seen their resilience and grace — they are ready.


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