How one teacher strives to engage students in online learning

Throughout the pandemic, teachers have had to adapt their classes into an online format, while still keeping students engaged in their education.

Jaqueline Sparrow, a government teacher at Inglewood High School shared her perspective teaching during the pandemic. Although remote learning posed challenges, Sparrow found ways to create a positive classroom experience for her students.

“I never really realized how important my classroom was until I didn’t have it,” Sparrow said. “I don’t think anybody, any teacher or any school district in the nation was ready for virtual learning.”

Sparrow said she’s concerned about the lack of engagement in her classes. In online classes, it’s harder for teachers to gauge how students understand their lessons, and it can be difficult to be talking to blank screens on Zoom.

“I really don’t know if I’m being as effective as I want to be. It really is disheartening when I planned this whole beautiful lesson … and there’s no one there,” Sparrow said.

Adapting to remote learning hasn’t been a simple task, Sparrow said. It took time, experimentation, and learning from mistakes.

“[It was hard to] figure out how to deliver the content when you’re expected to have the same results as you would face to face … those were the biggest challenges,” Sparrow said. “School districts forgot that none of us knew how to conduct the class online.”

Giselle Martinez, a senior in Sparrow’s government class, said Sparrow stands out from some of her other teachers and has handled remote learning well.

“My first thought when we were going to start doing virtual training was like, it’s going to be impossible,” Martinez said. “But, Sparrow figured out a way to make it work.”

Martinez said she believes one of Sparrow’s strongest qualities as a teacher is that she gives her students time on assignments, not only that but she feels as though Sparrow provides comfort,

“She’s really concerned [about] our well-being,” Martinez said.

Martinez feels as though most teachers aren’t handling remote learning well. She expressed that she wants more teachers to be patient with students, as we’re experiencing a pandemic on top of classwork, college applications and responsibilities at home.

“I think what students and family have to understand is that I’m going through the same thing you are,” Sparrow said. “We have significant others. We have parents that are sick and dying. We have children, we have little children, you know, we have underlying conditions just like everybody else.”

Sparrow said she believes online learning lacks the “organic part” of teaching.

“The organic part of teaching is the compassion and the passion we have as teachers,” she said. “It’s that organic part of school that is needed in order for us to be able to gauge whether we are making a difference.”

When Sparrow hears parents talk about wishing for the campus to reopen in-person classes, she thinks they miss that “organic part of teaching” too.

Havanna Ross, a senior in Sparrow’s government class, said she feels that Sparrow stands out because she cares and wants students to understand the subject matter.

“She really wants to help you understand,” Ross said.

If someone answers a question in class incorrectly, Ross said Sparrow would lead a discussion and explain the concept or let another student explain. Sparrow said she doesn’t want her students confused, she wants to make sure everyone is understanding the lesson and no one is left behind.

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