The Other Side of Online Learning


How teachers and administration are adapting to online learning.


“It’s been very stressful, and it’s mostly our own doing, it’s not the requirements from the districts, or the TAE, or the admin” Yvette Vasquez, the choir and piano teacher said, “but it’s that we want to do something good for the students so we have been working extremely hard for y’all”


Covid-19 has changed many aspects of our world. From the healthcare system, to social gatherings, to work and education. Schools all over America have moved online where students trade desks for laptops and teachers’ whiteboards for computer screens. 


“When we moved online, I was thinking of two things. One, what do my students need most, and Two, what are the constraints both me and the students face.” Sarah Walker, 10 English teachers said, “I have been trying to match those two things. But yeah, what do students need to keep their brain active and then what can I do to meet individual needs”


Teachers have had the difficult job of adjusting their curriculum to fit distance learning while making sure it is not overwhelming for their students but also gives the necessary material to stay productive these next few months. 


“I have tried to find a balance between offering things students find interesting and not have them be overwhelmed.” Andrew Langford, Biomed, and Ap Biology teacher said, “that’s what I have wrestled with the most, trying to find what to give students that will help them.”


As most students know, being at home comes with its own set of challenges that differ from being at school. And through phone calls and outreach, teachers are aware of these struggles and have adapted to it. 


“Our curriculum is student-based and it takes into account students’ day-to-day life. Some kids are babysitting all their siblings, some kids have huge chores, and some kids are even working, so there’s a lot to take into account.” Vasquez said, “we had to strike a balance of content we absolutely need before the end of the year and find a way not to tax students so they don’t have added stress.”


Teachers balance everything from students in AP courses to multiple grade levels spanning through middle and high. So they need to adapt their classes to a wide range of diversity in educational needs.


“For AP Bio we have finished the curriculum so now it is a matter of review,” Langford said, “so I want to be able to provide the best options for students to feel ready to take the exam” 


“ I have combined my middle school and high school classes, one of the things I am hoping for the middle schoolers is for them to take the challenge. We do have those three sections, must do, can do, and challenge. I make it accessible for everyone but the challenge is more for high school.” Vasquez said, “Although I have had some 6th graders tell me they’ve done the challenge. And it’s not super surprising but it was nice to see them step up.”


Although it has been hard for teachers, the administration has worked to make online school fit Ann Richards’s needs best. They have done this by working with and guiding Austin ISD.


“We were waiting for guidance from the district and it’s difficult because AISD is so huge.” Briana Castano, Assistant principal said, “At one point we decided we can’t wait just for the district to tell us what to do, we need to do what’s best for our students and our teachers so we started to put some things together that would make sense for us. And really the district saw our work and modeled what their expectation was based on what we were doing. It was good because we got to do what we wanted and they said: “oh that’s great, maybe others should follow suit.”


The process of designing a curriculum in these unprecedented times is totally new. And everyone has tried to make it work for them. The admin has taken steps to adapt and update previous plans to this new form of learning.


“The process (of moving online) has been like the design process, you do something, test it out, then tweak it and test it again,” Castano said, “ We are all working to make this work.”


Along with students, teachers have had to organize their day to day life into a schedule. Many of us know how easy it is to fall into a 5am to 3pm life but teachers have had to adapt around that.


“We are to be available from 9am-4:45pm. We are also supposed to have 4 office hours a week. We also have faulty meetings, departmental meetings, and a grade level meeting” Vasquez said, “The reality though, is that I am doing work all day. I spend time answering emails, hunting for content, and it kinda takes up the day.”


“The biggest thing I learned from working at home is that it is hard to set boundaries because it feels like you’re always at work. It feels like I am in my office all day, every day.” Castano said   “I’ve struggled honestly to keep a schedule. One thing that helps is that the admin has a meeting at 9am every day so that has helped not letting me wake up at 3pm but keep a schedule.”


“Having office hours and other meetings is nice because it keeps me on a schedule. I have tried to get my kids on a schedule, and tried  to coordinate my schedule and my wife’s work schedule.” Langford said, “ It definitely has helped to have some dedicated time to get work done.”


Most of all though, the biggest challenge school staff has faced, has been the separation from the students and each other.


  • “I love the science, the biology, the Biomed, but the questions a student will have or the directions the class will take that’s unpredictable and is impossible to have online.” Langford said, “I definitely miss interacting with you guys”


  • “I miss the energy in the classroom, I miss the conversations, I miss the drama, I miss the singing, I miss our team, especially the choirs.” Vasquez said, “I miss the teamwork.”


  • “I miss being together in the same space, and  I miss seeing yall interact together.” Walker said “I am so grateful for technology but I do miss my students”


  • The biggest challenge is not seeing you guys every day. Seeing everyone is a daily reminder of how much I love who I work with.” Castano said, “just being able to know that the work you are doing is affecting others in a positive way and not being able to see that is hard. We hope that we are doing what’s best and we are open to feedback and hope that everyone is safe and healthy.


Through this historical time, it is important to remember that we are all adapting to this new life and working to make the best of it. Teachers, administration, cafeteria workers, custodians, and all members of education are working hard for students. And we all will get through this.